Monthly Archives: February 2015

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What’s In The Box Rocking Dog ?

Uninspiring Box, Rocking Dog

Uninspiring Box

An interesting question, which i’m going to answer shortly! I thought i’d share another Fabric of Life story with you.

In 1985 Andyman’s paternal grandmother died, and in the course of clearing her little flat in Inverness, Andy’s parents came across a very uninspiring old shirt box stowed on top of a wardrobe. They were completely unaware of the boxes contents and no doubt like everyone they hoped for a crammed box of crisp bank notes! Alas it was not to be, however in its own way the boxes contents were much more interesting, for it contained a wedding day in a box.

On the 19th April 1929 Agnes Marshall (known as Nancy) married David Ferguson at Lochgelly Parish Church in Fife, Scotland. This box contained Nancy’s wedding dress, stockings, wax flowers from her veil, some wedding photo’s and a pair of hand painted silk wedding favours. At a later date a little pom-pom’d leather babies shoe had been added to the box (in all probability belonging to Andyman’s father or uncle).

My mother and father in law had never seen any of the contents before, it was a true revelation. I wonder whether had Nancy had daughters and granddaughters she may have shared girly time showing off her wedding finery. A few years ago my in laws kindly bequeathed the box and its contents to me knowing of my interest in textiles, nostalgia and clutter!

When it came to photographing all the items for this particular blog I became keenly aware of the fabrics and their manufacture.

Somewhat thankfully the dress has avoided being ravaged by moths. Had this dress been of silk I rather this dress would have been thrown away long ago. Instead it is made from Art Silk (Artificial Silk), most probably Rayon which became really popular in this era as a cheaper alternative to silk. Rayon is made from purified cellulose, usually from wood or cotton. Silk, satin and velvet were still favoured by high end designers at this time, but for the mass market, department stores started carrying less expensive garments using these newly developed semi-synthetic fibres.

As for the style of Nancy’s dress- it is daringly calf length. For the first time in centuries women’s legs were seen, with hemlines rising to the knee. World War 1 and the Women’s Rights Movement had done much to emancipate women. Women ditched restrictive clothing including waist nipping corsets, and dresses became functional, flattening the bosom rather than accentuating it! At around the time of this family wedding, collars and bodices were abandoned. Therefore Nancy’s dress was right on trend, with drop waisted shift shape, having no collar, calf length and using one of the revolutionary new fabrics. It also includes hook and eye fastenings on one of the side seams. Many of these fastenings were made by Newey’s of Birmingham from 1791. Unlike buttons they obviously allowed for a flatter, less bulky seam.

Wedding In A Box, Rocking Dog

Wedding In A Box

Deco Dress, Rocking Dog

Deco Dress

Bridal Party 1929, Rocking Dog

Bridal Party 1929







Nancy’s dress also includes metallic thread to embellish the three dimensional Hydrangea style flowers. Over time where the dress has been folded, rust spots have rather cruelly marred it. With its twinkling silvery metallic glints it must have looked really pretty on it’s one outing in the spring of 1929. Though outwardly sweet, it is somewhat crudely made, with a machine finished hem and rough seams. With no label, I have no idea of the provenance of the dress, perhaps it was made by a competent seamstress rather than a departmental store purchase. In the photo’s the dress has been accessorised with veil, some sort of cape andMary Jane¬†heeled shoes.

The stockings are again of a Rayon type fabric and though in near perfect condition one of the pair has a small hole at the knee. My late Father in Law remembered his mother telling him that she had tripped badly on her wedding day.

As for the other accessories in the box, the wax flowers are one cluster of what would have been a pair. They formed part of Nancy’s veil regalia and consist of wax blossoms with yellow cotton sepals, together with a spray of artificial heather (no doubt for luck), green bias binding trails and celluloid leaves. Meanwhile the silk “favours”are possibly the 1920’s equivalent of giving a bride a lucky horseshoe, however, I could be completely incorrect on this point. These braided satin shields include hand painted initials of bride and groom, together with their marriage date and rose decoration. The colours are still very vibrant even after 86 years.

So that’s what’s in the box! I only wish I could get my own wedding dress in a mere shoe box. Alas, I was one of those 1980’s Princes Diana dress brides and i’m afraid my frou’y meringue is somewhat unceremoniously stored in a large bag under the bed. Like Nancy’s I rather think the moths will give it a wide birth, layers of nylon tulle really not catering for the destructive creatures’discerning palate. Anyone curious enough to want to see my dress on a future blog post send me a pleading request, I may somewhat embarrassingly consider it!

Rayon Hosiery, Rocking Dog

Rayon Hosiery

Wax Flora, Rocking Dog

Wax Flora

Wedding Favours, Rocking Dog

Wedding Favours

Rocking Dog Sewing For Little Ones

Vintage For Little Folk, Rocking Dog

Vintage For Little Folk

Rocking Dog is contemplating sewing some vintage fabric skirts and dresses for little ones. There is something lovely about doing things on a small scale, not left to worry about the often disappointing fit of sewing adult clothes. Having said that, I loved a pair of trousers I made a good few years ago which were made in the most amazing fabric which pictured sleeping Mexicans complete with sombrero’s and poncho’s. A little piece or two of the fabric has ended up in oldest daughters quilt which I made about three years ago. Meanwhile youngest daughter’s quilt features a pieces of vintage chintz which were left over from making a bed for Real Live Rocking Dog. Both quilts are sewn with their baby dresses etc.. left as intact as possible. Livi’s quilt has the quote “A bed without a quilt is like a sky without stars” Get the tissues out!

My Mum made a lot of clothes for my sister and I. It was significantly cheaper to make garments rather than go to a drapers to buy clothes for young ladies! I remember a bundle of full skirted 50’s dresses arriving from my aunt in Scotland. These were taken apart by my mum and made into various dresses for us. I rather think the little bibbed play skirts in the photo below utilised some of the fabric from one of these deconstructed dresses. I remember the fabric well, beautiful turquoise fine crisp cotton bedecked with exotic tall figures. I also remember my mum making dresses from glazed orange curtain fabric, embellished with gold braid and buttons, how very family Von Trapp! Our first grown up dresses were maxi dresses (though with growth they subsequently became midi dresses), were made in very fine white fabric with a bold black polka dot. The only rather annoying tale of my mum’s dressmaking is that if there was a choice of fabric my mum chose brown for me as I had brown eyes and brown hair, whilst my sister with her blue eyes got the blue material! I sometimes wonder if that is why I really don’t like wearing brown at all now, but more than likely my brown uniformed Saturday job at Debenham’s had more to do with it.

Obviously the finish of children’s clothes is vital to stop any rubbing. I’ll need to polish up on the neatness of my seams and get jiggy with it trying to find out what parents and children want. I think for little girls I need to be making “Frozen” princess dresses. I hear there is near hysteria for all that is Frozen, even inspiring a range of blue wedding dresses. Wonders never cease to amaze!

Patterns For Little People, Rocking Dog

Patterns For Little People

Dog Bed Quilt, Rocking Dog

Dog Bed Quilt

Von Trapp Family Dresses, Rocking Dog

Von Trapp Family Dresses

Rediscovering Calligraphy At The Makery

Meticulous Ink, Rocking Dog

Meticulous Ink

On Saturday I clocked in at “The Makery” for a calligraphy workshop with Athena of “Meticulous Ink”, Bath.

I’m a big fan of The Makery having previously been on a workshop to make Roman Blinds. I found that workshop to have been informative, fun and well paced. Most importantly it gave me the confidence to embark on making blinds for my lounge windows. I am now looking to make blinds for the kitchen with an as yet unchosen fabric. Apart from being given a concise instruction sheet I came away from the workshop having made a small blind which is great to refer back to. Finally when I had an issue with measurements for one of my blinds an e.mail to the workshop tutor resulted in a quick response with advice….so brilliant after care too! Finally after seventeen years my lounge had dressed windows, hallelujah!

Though taught italics at school and with reasonable handwriting, I wanted to learn some more swirly flourishes. In the longer term, when well practiced I would like to paint some linen banners. I therefore readily signed up for this 2 hour workshop to reacquaint myself with calligraphy. Through the jolly yellow door of “The Makery” I went, and formed part of a group of twelve budding calligraphers. We sat around one long table and were offered hot drinks by friendly Makery staff before embarking on the serious business of learning beautiful script. Athena patiently took us through upper and lower case letters of the alphabet. Once she felt we’d mastered the letter A, we’d then proceed to B and so forth. I was surprised how challenging I found it, perhaps I had bad calligraphy habits to undo. I’d certainly have won the prize for the most inky finger!

The lovely girl sat next to me, had come along to the session because she’d recently become engaged and wanted to write all her wedding invitations and envelopes. By the end of the session she realised she’d need to put in some serious practice to make that a reality. I hope she does, what could be more lovely than receiving something beautifully handwritten.

The more than two hours went very quickly, but very enjoyably. It really has made me want to re-look at my handwriting and get more flamboyant. We left the session with precious supplies of nib holder, nib, alphabet guide sheet, a wodge of calligraphy paper and some amazing Iron Gall calligraphers ink (all included in the cost of the workshop). Thank you Athena. PS you have the most glorious hair by the way!

A strange unexpected bi-product of this workshop is that I am able to better understand the script in the 1846 recipe book I am currently transcribing. Understanding proper formation of individual letters has been incredibly helpful. At the moment I am deciphering recipes for Suet College Puddings and Cream Pancakes.

Still on the theme of writing, I love the verse that my Great Uncle Walter penned on a postcard to my Grandmother Emily (his sister) on 11th September 1911

Why? has all the ink in the world gone dry
Are all the pens mislaid?
Pencils too- are there none to buy?
Is paper no longer made?
If you are not deep in this awful plight
Then why in the world
do you never write?

Makery Magic!, Rocking Dog

Makery Magic!

My First Blind, Rocking Dog

My First Blind

Practice Will Make Perfect!, Rocking Dog

Practice Will Make Perfect!

Everything’s Blooming For Spring Sew Well !

Flower Sprigged Vintage Linen, Rocking Dog

Flower Sprigged Vintage Linen

With the beautiful blue skies and the birds singing it felt very spring like yesterday so Rocking Dog has been getting excited about beautiful blooming florals. Plans are underway to make some lovely new products to herald the beginning of spring.
I will announce some Rocking Dog dates to put in your diary hopefully very soon.

I have some lovely vintage table linen, hand embroidered with an array of spring flowers, chicks and Easter eggs. How I love to see a pile of freshly laundered starched linen, it makes me want to keep it all!

This week sees Rocking Dog making more wedding bunting, made from antique lace. These handmade lovelies are so pretty for decorating a marquee, garden or church doorway. Also ready to be sewn are more vintage lavender stuffed hearts. They would look exquisite hung in numbers from tree branches, or given as unique wedding favours. I am always happy to help wedding couples with bespoke banners, favours, bunting and other decorative loveliness! I love styling weddings and parties, so if you would need a skilled creative pair of hands to help set up, frou and take the pressure off – give me a shout. Please spread the word.

Wedding Bunting, Rocking Dog

Wedding Bunting

Crooked Hearts, Rocking Dog

Crooked Hearts

Blooming Bunting, Rocking Dog

Blooming Bunting

What Have You Got Cooking Rocking Dog?

The Magic Begins!, Rocking Dog

The Magic Begins!

The answer, another simple dessert to blag, oops, blog about! My lovely Mum’s recipe for Scandinavian Peasant Girl With Veil delighted many a guest during the 70’s. It was often the perfect end to a dinner party which had normally begun with Beef Stroganoff or Athenian Mince (rather like lasagne but the pasta layer being replaced with boiled thickly sliced potatoes). Another pudding staple was cherry pie (Morton’s black cherry pie filling trapped in a homemade pastry case). The pie was normally decorated with large pastry stars, had a hole to let the steam escape, and a generous sprinkling of sugar before baking. Pudding plates cleared, it was my Dad Doug’s piece de resistance to offer a range of liquors. Holiday travel abroad was in it’s infancy but there’d be some weird concoction from Palma de Mallorca, French hypermarket buys together with Drambuie and Tia Maria. Latterly I remember one of Dad’s less successful liquer buys, a kiwi flavoured liquer with two whole kiwi unappetisingly floating about in it. It rather resembled a specimen jar on some gory hospital lab’ shelf!

Unfortunately, I do not know where the original recipe for Scandinavian Peasant Girl came from. My Mum Barbara, had a small shelf of cookery books and recipe cards, but for weekday cooking she relied on a selection of regular stored in the head recipes. I remember her loving Graham Kerr, The Galloping Gourmet when he hit the TV screens, she definitely said he was dishy! She certainly couldn’t abide the bullying Fanny Craddock but was rather fond of Keith Floyd

We ate this nostalgic pud’ yesterday for a small gathering, and I hope my children will keep this family recipe in their repertoire. I tried to look for Barbara’s glass trifle bowl to get the whole 70’s vibe, alas my cellar is much to untidy to lay my hands on it! (job 476 on the list) Although a grating of 70% dark chocolate would be more PC these days, I still personally love the Cadbury’s Flake to remind me of this pudding being served up at home by my mum in a jazzy trouser suit!

So the recipe for Barbara’s Scandinavian Peasant Girl With Veil.

(serves 6 very generously)
3/4 large sliced wholemeal loaf (day old bread perfect)
250g butter
100g soft brown sugar
4 large Bramley apples
4 tbsp white sugar
200ml double cream
2 Flake bars or grated chocolate

*Peel, core and slice apples and put in a pan with a little water and the white sugar. Cook until pulpy. Cool.
*Break the bread slices into pieces and blitz to coarse breadcrumbs with a stick blender or in a processor.
*Melt the butter on a medium heat in a large high sided frying pan.
*When butter melted add in the breadcrumbs and continue cooking over a medium heat. Stir constantly!
*After about 15 minutes the breadcrumbs will be crisper and a chestnut brown colour. Remove from the heat.
*Stir the brown sugar into the breadcrumbs.Leave to cool.
*When apple and breadcrumb mixes are both cold, whip your cream into peaks.
*Layer the apple and breadcrumb mixtures in a large glass bowl/glasses. End with a breadcrumb layer.
*Dollop the veil (cream) on top of your dessert(s) and break over some shards of Flake or grated chocolate.
*Refrigerate until serving.

If you were making this dessert ahead of time I would suggest making the apple and breadcrumb mixes and storing them separately in airtight containers in the fridge. Assemble up to 2 hours before guests arrive. No Hostess Trolley required!

Thank you to Malago WI for the lovely Emily Ketteringham tea towel which features in my photo’s. Simply too lovely to dry dishes with!

Mother and Brother, Rocking Dog

Mother and Brother

Scandi' Pud', Rocking Dog

Scandi’ Pud’

Raindrops And Roses And Whiskers….

My favourite things, Rocking Dog

My favourite things

…..on kittens, you get the drift these are a few of my favourite things! Whilst on my trawl down Gloucester Road I found a stash of Selvedge magazines in CLIC. A truly yummy magazine for anyone who loves textiles, fashion and fabric history. Love it that I do, unfortunately it is expensive, so a very occasional treat. Selvedge also has a lovely online shop and there are details of delicious Selvedge events.

Back to Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens… browsing through one of my bargainous magazine stash I chanced upon an article about the talented Julie Arkell. How I love her work and I am lucky enough to have some of her jewellery pieces. Over the years they have been very gratefully received and very cherished presents. Alas I fear that her prices have risen, so my collection may have come to a rather sad conclusion.

The first piece came from a gallery in Bristol and is a heart shaped brooch which is a real favourite. However the little message “Looking at the sea drinking tea” is rather ironic because I hate tea! Like most of Julie’s work it is made of papier mache. This particular piece is studded with shards of broken china and embellished with a tartan ribbon.

Another heart brooch was a Valentines day gift. Andyman and I had travelled to New Zealand to meet long lost relatives and we were staying on North Island. I remember waking up after our 24 hour travels, opening the shutters and thinking “we’ve flown all this way and this looks like Dartmouth!” incidentally I love Dartmouth, honest. So this mosaic heart was given to me during our jet-lagged fug!

Other pieces have been sporadically added, all totally unique and uniquely loved. How I love a watch whose time stays completely still and which has such a pretty Liberty print strap. Meanwhile the little brooch with the ring of pearly beads has unfortunately been through the wars. It withstood a 50 degree wash and spin and i’ve tried my best to rejuvenate her.

I know folk art jewellery isn’t everybody’s cup of tea or coffee in my case, but give me mashed up paper and broken china over a diamond any day! ……Brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favourite things!

Have a lovely weekend. I still have the sledge on standby, and have my fingers crossed!

Yummy mag', Rocking Dog

Yummy mag’

First love, Rocking Dog

First love

Valentine, Rocking Dog


Timeless, Rocking Dog


50 degree wash, Rocking Dog

50 degree wash

Flo Jo Boutique- Like A Kiddy In A Sweet Shop!

Excited about the holiday bag, Rocking Dog

Excited about the holiday bag

The Paper Cut Out Girls are looking forward to the completion of the next batch of drawstring bags- ideal for their hol’s in the Costa del Sol! Flamenco dancers, castanets, sunbathing, Martini’s, sun hats and fun!

Rocking Dog went in search of lining fabric for these bags. Flo-Jo Boutique on Gloucester Road, Bristol is fantastic. It is a tiny emporium of wonderful fabrics, ribbons, haberdashery, and gorgeous all year around Madonnaesque Christmas decorations. Friendly, happy and helpful staff make this a sewers paradise. Flo-Jo also run a variety of sewing workshops including knicker making in a lovely stylish sewing space.

So my bags are going to sport linings of delicious postage stamp print fabric. Of course it was impossible to leave Flo-Jo without a little something else… A perennial bargain spotter I found a lovely remnant of 50’s fashionista fabric. No plans yet for it, but I know it will come in useful one day very soon.

The girls at Flo-Jo are bracing themselves for the hoped for rush when The Great British Sewing Bee returns tonight. How I love a bit of sewing porn! Apparently sales of sewing machines rocketed in John Lewis during series 1 and 2.

Incidentally, Gloucester Road is often held up as a shining example of a thriving high street which has successfully dealt with recession, threats of superstores and the Mayor’s zeal to bring in permit only parking. It boasts a wonderful array of independent shops. My personal favourites include Murrays the butchers, Gardner’s Patch (fruit and veg), Reason (vintage loveliness for the home),¬†Grape & Grind (wines, beers) The Bread store, and Clic (fab Charity shop). I always love Coffee 1 for great coffee and cake. Thankfully retail chains are few on the ground. Long may this street be vibrant and proudly independent!

Fabulous Flo-Jo's, Rocking Dog

Fabulous Flo-Jo’s

Ribbons galore!, Rocking Dog

Ribbons galore!

Sexy sewing space!, Rocking Dog

Sexy sewing space!

50's Fashionista, Rocking Dog

50’s Fashionista

Rocking Dog Makes Valentine Hearts

Crooked Love Hearts, Rocking Dog

Crooked Love Hearts

With Valentine’s Day around the corner a Rocking Dog crooked heart make. These lavender stuffed hearts are easy to make and have eco friendly credentials as they use vintage remnants and embellishments.

Though pretty, they more seriously keep moths at bay. Moths are discerning little critters and love cashmere, fur, feathers, silk, and wool in particular. They also love the dark and being undisturbed. Therefore give your wardrobe a frequent “spring” clean. They don’t stop with clothes either, so frequently vacuum clean wool carpets and shake folded blankets outside. Anything you feel is particular venerable and shows possible signs of moth damage, bag up and put in the freezer for 12 hours. When you come to put your woolies/coats etc.. away at the end of the winter make sure they are clean, moths love sweaty food stained garments! Put in plastic suit carriers- they are commonly lazy creatures who won’t go to the bother of chewing through the plastic! Cedar wood or lavender certainly help to discourage moths, together with less warm conditions- so switch the central heating off!

Rocking Dog Crooked Hearts.

1. Draw and cut a heart shaped template from card. Mine roughly measures 17cm long by 11cm at widest point.
2. Take an old embroidered table mat, tray cloth, serviette and use your template to draw around to cut some hearts.
3. Choose some pretty backing fabric and again use your template to cut hearts.
4. Embellish your vintage fabric fronts with some pretty buttons, beads, braid or/and ribbon.
5. Remember to stay clear from the edge, it’s difficult to sew seams with buttons in the way!
6. Take your vintage fabric heart and a backing fabric heart, put right side to right side.
7. Tuck a short folded length of string/ ribbon in between the heart layers (this will form the hanging loop).
8. Start machine (or hand) sewing mid way down one of the heart sides.
Continue stitching all the way around until approx 3cm away from start point.
Reverse stitch and take heart from the machine.
9. Turn your heart right way out. Use a pencil or chopstick to get a good point and shape. Press.
10 Fill your heart generously with lavender. I use a plate or tray to collect all the lavender that escapes.
11. Close the gap by hand using neat hem stitching.
12. Tie a pretty piece of ribbon around the loop. Plump your heart up and hang on a Rocking Dog coat hanger. Voila!

Ingredients, Rocking Dog


Draw, Rocking Dog


Cut, Rocking Dog


Embellish, Rocking Dog


Sew, Rocking Dog


Done, Rocking Dog


I Am A Winter Person, Never Happier…..

Frosted Geranium, Rocking Dog

Frosted Geranium

“I am a winter person, never happier than on a clear frosty morning” Nigel Slater. I do indeed love the winter, the cold, the frost, but yesterday I felt sad. There was only one thing to get me out of my doldrums was to get my wellies on and move THAT wall! 6 hours and about twenty five wheel-barrows later, the wall is now a resplendent mountain of Pennant stone. So whilst Andyman has been skiing down his mountain i’ve literally been moving mine! I am now hoping that unlike four years ago the skier will come back in one piece. Selfishly, there are about ten trailer loads of rubble to take to the recycling centre.

I do believe that the past inhabitant Mr Dursley built the raised stone flower bed as a cunning method of secreting breeze blocks, concrete, bricks and other rubbly fodder. Having watched a programme about the stupendous Staffordshire Hoard only the night before, I was ever hopeful I may just find something wonderful whilst in the process of demolition. Alas my yield amounted to two pretty pieces of china, a jaw bone complete with teeth (a large dogs perhaps) and a little plaque (Past Times I rather think) with the words “Love is Enough”. Those words got me thinking a lot. Love is not enough, what about food, water, warmth, shelter, etc… etc… So that little saying kept my brain active for a little while and took my mind off the fact that my back was becoming increasingly crippled with the weight of some of those blooming boulders. It was only with the last barrow load that I remembered that one Christmas not so very long ago that I was recuperating from an emergency hernia op’……oops!

Another day should see me finish de-rubbling the ground in readiness for building the raised railway sleeper vegetable beds.
I have visions of some espalier fruit trees, soft fruits, and something that will look vaguely lovely to look at. I am no gardener but I do enjoy the thinking time. Andyman says he likes running for that purpose, but trust me the only thing i’m thinking about if i’m running is “I’m going to die!”

The rhubarb is on it’s way up, although I fear some of it got rather crushed with my bad wheelbarrow driving. We have about seven plants and we love it for use in both sweet and savoury dishes. We were really inspired to grow a sizeable crop after having been to Le Manoir for our 25th wedding anniversary lunch. The gardens there are truly wonderful and add to the whole fork to plate dining experience. Another good restaurant garden in the south west is The Walled Garden, Wrington.

So yes I felt a lot better after my 6 hours of stone moving. Gardening is definitely good for the soul but I wish I could say the same for my poor old back!

Rhubarb On The Rise, Rocking Dog

Rhubarb On The Rise

The Walled Garden, Rocking Dog

The Walled Garden

Fork To Plate, Rocking Dog

Fork To Plate