Monthly Archives: July 2016

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Curtains Ready To Be Hung

Packaged & Ready To Go!, Rocking Dog

Packaged & Ready To Go!

Yes the crisp ticking curtains are ready to be hung. Measured, cut, lined, sewn, hand hemmed, pressed and bound they’ll be gracing a bay window in Plumstead sometime very soon.

Feeling very jaded this morning, so this post is short and sweet. Hope you all have a lovely weekend and that the sun shines for you. Love Rocking Dog x

Money Through The Letterbox Please!

Wheelbarrow Fruits, Rocking Dog

Wheelbarrow Fruits

Last week I took a friend for tea in the beautiful Wiltshire village of Lacock. This picturesque little place is well renowned for being the perfect place to film a good drama. Therefore the film crews of Cranford, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Downton Abbey, and Harry Potter have all rolled into town at one point or other.

Lacock was mentioned in the Domesday Book and its famous Abbey was established in 1232. In the Middle Ages it had a thriving wooden industry. The dissolution of the monasteries in Henry VIII’s reign had a serious effect on the village. In 1944 the Abbey and the village almost in its entirety were bequeathed to the National Trust.

Unlike many English villages struggling to keep its village pub, shop, post office or bus service Lacock is thriving. Many tourists flock to the village because of its film connections. There is a village shop, a pottery, a jeweller, pubs, tea rooms, bakery and NT shop amongst other commercial interests.

Even more quaint is the entrepreneurial spirit of the villagers. Plants, books, meringues, courgettes, summer fruits, lavender were all to be bought from flagstoned doorsteps. There were bags kindly supplied for customers booty and instructions for payment.

I loved the wheelbarrow with its punnet’s of freshly picked soft fruits. Most mornings I enjoy seasonal fruit to eat with granola or bircher muesli. Berries chosen, it was time to push coins through a very snappy little letterbox. I could get used to this sort of shopping!

Is this wheelbarrow selling a very British phenomenon I wonder.

There was time for tea in the very beautiful garden at King John’s Hunting Lodge and then a further stroll. The last pitstop was at Sue Stokes Decorative Antiques in West Street. Sue has a truly beautiful little shop with such unusual stock, a tiny leather child’s glove, silver milagro’s, religious figurines, even a straw bra! I will be back.

Lacock is delightful and of course there is always Corsham, a short drive away. There has been much excitement in the town because scenes for the recent Poldark series have been filmed there…..not Cornwall at all!

Wheelbarrow Stall, Rocking Dog

Wheelbarrow Stall

Courgette Glut, Rocking Dog

Courgette Glut

Lacock Letterbox, Rocking Dog

Lacock Letterbox

Plant Sale, Rocking Dog

Plant Sale

Money Plant, Rocking Dog

Money Plant

Any Flowers For Sale?, Rocking Dog

Any Flowers For Sale?

Scented Sell, Rocking Dog

Scented Sell

For Bookworms, Rocking Dog

For Bookworms

Time For Tea, Rocking Dog

Time For Tea

Sewing Into The Wee Hours

Sewing With My Little Helpers, Rocking Dog

Sewing With My Little Helpers

Sewing into the wee hours, Rocking Dog is making full length bay window curtains for Sorrel (and Pete). Ticking, lined with blackout material they will keep out street light, winter chills (!) and prying eyes. The four finished drapes will be hung from a copper pipe pole and will look great set against the Inchyra Blue walls. A minimalist house my girls’ house is not, there are lots of boho treasures to delight guests.

So it’s just me, Beloved Bernina and my little deep south helpers sewing into the night. These lovely gingham frocked girls probably date from the 30’s and are modelled over sand filled American lemonade bottles. They are obviously not very PC, but I love their loving handmade-ness and honesty. With buttons for eyes and brass curtain rings for hoop earrings they are so “Gone With The Wind”.

Whilst I sew I am enjoying music from the movies, including themes from “Gladiator”,
“Dances With Wolves” and “Out Of Africa”. Maybe i’ll even put on “Gone With The Wind” for the girls.

Sleep Well. Love a sew happy Rocking Dog x

Monochrome Ticking, Rocking Dog

Monochrome Ticking

Hollyhocks & Criminal Ladies

Profusion Of Hollyhocks and Criminals!, Rocking Dog

Profusion Of Hollyhocks and Criminals!

Good morning from Rocking Dog, I hope you have had a good weekend. I was in London over the weekend attending the Anniversary Games at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The stadium now has its new livery of maroon and sky blue, West Ham FC now in residence. Although it was great to see Usain Bolt run, a world record being won (Kendra Harrison USA 100m hurdles) and a host of paralympic events (Please Watch this amazing link), the weekend wasn’t all about athletics.

A very balmy Thursday evening was spent on the roof terrace of my brother in law’s workplace. We enjoyed cocktails and fabulous views across the Thames to St Paul’s and beyond. It is such a beautiful cityscape, though we spent some time discussing what Christopher Wren would make of his city. Friday morning, me, my girls and nieces headed to Bermondsey market. Sorrel and I, ever eagle eyed spotted some truly yummy embroidery. The owner obviously loved it and told us that she’d put an inflated price on it in an attempt never to find a buyer for it. Evidently she was genuinely keen to hang onto it. I adored the bold stitchery of the hollyhocks, delphinium spire, pansies, marigolds, phlox and billy-button daisies. I went to sit on a bench to deliberate and cogitate! Sorrel and one niece then went off to seal the asking price deal. The stall holder was somewhat shocked and crestfallen when she saw them approach, cash in hand. She asked if she could have an hour to come to terms with selling it, but eventually agreed on a 10 minute stalling period. If you are reading this blog piece Mrs stall holder……thank you so much for begrudgingly parting with it! It will be Sooooooo truly loved!

I think the piece probably dates from the 1930’s and is currently a slip cover for a large bolster style cushion. After careful consideration, in Rocking Dog’s hands it will more than likely become an exquisite central panel for a quilt. I propose surrounding it with vintage floral fabrics together with 20’s-30 embroidered pieces and fabulous vintage braids. As you probably know Rocking Dog has a penchant for embroidery, and loves a tray cloth, tablecloth or serviette to reconfigure. I will steadily accumulate materials to work towards starting this project. I want to find beautiful cottons and the like which help to celebrate the central panel.

Maybe some of the pieces I will use in the quilt will be iconic 20’s /30’s Crinoline lady embroidery. Between the wars cheerful embroidery was undertaken, sometimes using iron on transfers. Crinoline ladies, flowers and garden subjects were all popular at the time. In addition a whole variety of housewares were available with images of crinoline ladies from table linen, paper and foil crafts, china to early plastics. In our household crinoline ladies have always been called criminal ladies. Sorrel as a child misheard what these vintage ladies were called, so criminal they have remained.

Cumbersome, with steel or whale bone hooped cages the Victorian crinoline was a hazard to wear. Women died or were left badly burnt if they happened to brush against a fire or if a hot ember landed on the multi layers of fabric. In addition, their dresses could get caught in factory machinery or the wheels of a carriage. One woman in 1885 however luckily survived as a result of her crinoline. Sarah Ann Henley, a barmaid working in a public house in Ashton, Bristol had her engagement broken off, in despair she decided to throw herself off the Clifton Suspension Bridge. She survived the 246ft (75 metres) drop because her crinoline acted as a parachute. Sarah went onto marry and lived to the ripe old age of 85yrs. Another interesting fact is that the little Unitarian Chapel in Frenchay, Bristol has a crinoline door. The doorway is wider at the bottom than the top, so as to allow crinoline wearing church goers to pass into the chapel easily.

The hollyhocks part of this post is a bargainous curtain I bought yesterday in John Lewis, Westfield. A display curtain I have several metres of fabric for little more than the cost of a metre. The fabric is “Hollyhocks” by Sanderson and is based on a documented design from 1937. I have a cunning plan that I would like to make a fabulously flamboyant floral coat to attend Chelsea Flower Show 2017. I love Kaffe Fassett’s tapestry hollyhocks (sadly REALLY financially out of my league!) but am very fond of Julie Penney’s reworked vintage piece with it’s cheery hollyhocks and stitchery.

Tyeing crinoline ladies and hollyhocks together, very often these embroidered bonneted ladies are to be found tending spires of brightly coloured hollyhocks.

Now then just where is my bonnet .. so I can go and tend my unruly plot!

Have a great start to the week.

Yummy Embroidery , Rocking Dog

Yummy Embroidery

Sanderson Hollyhocks, Rocking Dog

Sanderson Hollyhocks

Criminal Ladies, Rocking Dog

Criminal Ladies

Floribunda, Rocking Dog

Floribunda

Julie's Flowers, Rocking Dog

Julie’s Flowers

China Can, Rocking Dog

China Can

Edwardian Gardener, Rocking Dog

Edwardian Gardener

Kaffe's Hollyhocks, Rocking Dog

Kaffe’s Hollyhocks

Crinoline Doorway, Rocking Dog

Crinoline Doorway

A Surprise Veg Box From Mr McGregor’s Patch

Oh So Thoughtful Gift, Rocking Dog

Oh So Thoughtful Gift

What a wonderful surprise I had yesterday. How lovely to find a veg box from Mr McGregor’s patch on my doorstep. I am unfortunately being a little economical with the truth, the box has come from some gorgeous neighbours, and not with the name McGregor.

I happened to mention a little while ago to Scott and Graeme that their vegetable plot reminded me of Mr McGregor’s. I am sure all of us as children were read the story of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit. Naughty Peter going into Mr McGregor’s walled kitchen garden for a little extra curricular eating. How I loved that book, nearly as much as “The Tale Of Two Bad Mice”. When Hunca Munca and Tom Thumb realise that the food in the doll’s house is made of plaster is a particular favourite.

The surprise box of veg’ bought a tear to my eye, it was so very thoughtful and so very delicious. Tiny beetroot, celery, carrots, new potatoes, lettuce and radishes. Such lovely ingredients will require nothing to enhance them. Thank you so much for your incredible kindness and I loved the McGregor Patch label, what a sentimental old boot I am!

Surprise parcels are nearly always so wonderful. I love “The Railway Children”, and not just for that memorable scene in the film when Jenny Agutter sees her father through the smoke. The hamper the wealthy old gentleman sends and which the family delights in is a lovely scene too.

Another hamper, another book, I adore “Sarah and Simon and no red paint” by Edward Ardizzone. A grumpy uncle sends a hamper with delicious listed contents to an impoverished artist and his family. It’s a rags to relative riches story with good morals and lovely illustrations.

Then of course there is the Cratchett family who are sprung a surprise when a reformed Ebenezer Scrooge turns up on Christmas Day bearing gifts. Charles Dickens was a marvel.

My most favourite surprise parcel ever is one I think I may have written about before. In March 1980 I was at Aldershot doing my Army basic training. A born soldier I absolutely was not. Basic fitness, maths lessons, kit inspections, room inspections, drill…..I was very homesick. I’m sure I delighted my parents with numerous tearful pay phone calls telling them how i’d been shouted at, had my room torn apart, and been berated on the drill square. There were letters and cards from my Mum and then a parcel. A brown papered plastic ice cream tub was filled with lovely bits of this and that. I can particularly remember a tea towel hand embroidered with my name rank and number and some flowers from the garden. I certainly remember Alyssum Gold Dust in the posy. I sobbed on my scratchy army blanketed bed, it was so lovely to have things that reminded me and smelt of home.

One final parcel story. About a year ago a parcel arrived addressed to me and I was hopeful that Andyman had bought me a little treat. Luxuriating in the moment of opening the parcel I was so despondent to find that the box contained six bottles of “Bar keeper’s Friend” a useful powder for cleaning sinks. Romance is absolutely not dead!

See you Monday. Until then have a great weekend and enjoy the sun – but as I always say, remember the Factor 50!….. Yes Mum!!!

Magical Potter, Rocking Dog

Magical Potter

Pretty Leaves, Rocking Dog

Pretty Leaves

Naughty Peter!, Rocking Dog

Naughty Peter!

Pretty Beans, Rocking Dog

Pretty Beans

Man & Rabbit, Rocking Dog

Man & Rabbit

Pretty Veg', Rocking Dog

Pretty Veg’

Sewing Just For Me

A Boxful Of Bling, Rocking Dog

A Boxful Of Bling

Yesterday I did some sewing just for me, and no darling Sorrel I haven’t forgotten your bay window curtains! I was sewingly unsociable shut away in my workroom. The heat outside was uncomfortably unbearable and the news on the radio too depressing for words. I decided to simply shut the door and sew something creative for the kennel.

A cushion-less chair provided fodder for a Rocking Dog sewing pimp.The chair which dates from the 1930’s has been with us for the last 25 years or so. I can’t remember where it came from or how much (or little) we paid for it. For the majority of that time it has been cushionless and therefore a fairly large and useless piece of furniture. It’s funny how you live with some things without question, and the way that they harmoniously blend into the background despite their lack of function.

The day had finally come to make cushions for the long forgotten chair. I started with an old grain sack which my lovely friend Steph had bought me back from India. It had seemingly witnessed overfilled hard times, it required a little patching to make a serviceable cushion. I used some ancient Osborne & Little fabric salvaged from the bottom of my workroom curtains. The oval panels contain exotically dressed little figures and I thought these would make ideal sack patches. I used metallic thread to sew the patches and became evermore crotchety when the thread repeatedly snapped! I then added some Indian bling with sequinned paisley pieces, and glittery braids. I added detail to both sides of the sack, so that I could use the cushion with either the pink script or the red peacock. With all the patching and blinging completed I could then sew the sack into a cushion.

Whilst creating, I loved listening to Woman’s Hour, it was an edition dedicated to young women and social media. Oh dear, I did feel more than a little despondent listening to women with millions of followers on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc… My blog is a bit like my gym membership that I had for years, I was ever hopeful that one day I would jump out of bed and realise that I wanted to exercise for the rest of my life! Alas, the day never came and reluctantly I gave up my membership… but it took several procrastinatingly expensive years! As for my blogging… I sometimes wonder whether I should put my energies elsewhere, however there is always the hope that it will get spotted somewhere along the line…… Check out rubyetc …love that girls work and she deserves all those followers… She describes in line drawings my own struggles with bra shopping and the like SO blooming perfectly!

Back to Planet Cushion! Stuffing was a messy affair. I made a cotton liner commensurate in size to the sack. I then filled it with feathers and down from an old sofa cushion. The liner was given a few lines of stitching to prevent any feathers escaping, and then it was time to introduce the cover to the cushion pad. As I wanted the cushion still to be identifiable as a sack I top stitched the opening rather than doing a more conventional concealed seam.

For the seat cushion I used a remnant of brightly coloured Sanderson crewelwork (from the very lovely boys at Whittaker Wells) and completed it with ribbon ties. Thankfully I didn’t have to deal with more loose feather and down as I found a large cushion pad, phew! Voila! my sewing project was complete.

Yesterday evening I did a lovely Mall catch up with my friend Di (lots of talk and not a lot of shopping generally) and we spotted some great cushions in M&S, very Anthropologie. As ever the Dog loves to over-gild everything so I couldn’t resist a bobbled embroidered number to utterly frou the new chair.

Now for those bay window curtains……I’m done with being selfish!

Cushionless Chair, Rocking Dog

Cushionless Chair

Indian Grain Sack, Rocking Dog

Indian Grain Sack

TLC Needed!, Rocking Dog

TLC Needed!

Splendid Patch, Rocking Dog

Splendid Patch

Sequinned Bling, Rocking Dog

Sequinned Bling

Sew The Sack, Rocking Dog

Sew The Sack

Add Crewelwork Cushion, Rocking Dog

Add Crewelwork Cushion

Comfy Seat, Rocking Dog

Comfy Seat

Final Flourish, Rocking Dog

Final Flourish

Pretty Puddings At The Pig At Bath

You're So Pretty! Rocking Dog

You’re So Pretty!

What pretty puddings we ate at The Pig at Bath on Sunday. The piggy bites and the mains were lovely too, as was the occasion we were celebrating. Our neighbour Symon had reached the dizzy heights of being 40.

The weather was truly gorgeous and so puddings and coffee were eaten alfresco. We eventually retreated to a more shady spot, and the boys debated how easy it would be to build a pair of Adirondack chairs. Get on it boys!

We could have sat there in that beautiful garden ALL afternoon. If it wasn’t a full Pig-out you were wanting, there were delicious pizzas being baked outside in the wood fired oven. The Pig is child friendly and it was lovely to see siblings happily swinging in the hammock, doing hand stands and playing hide and seek. Meanwhile fallow deer with their fuzzy antlers and swishing tails were grazing in a nearby field. We eventually left our sun soaked seats and headed into the walled kitchen garden.

For me the kitchen garden is a good reason to come to The Pig for lunch. I love eating and then having a leisurely pootle to see just what is growing in the garden. That fork to plate vision is something I really love. All types of summer fruits, herbs, globe artichokes, rainbow chard, rocket were all ready to pick.

Another gorgeous visit to The Pig and we all left with a warm glow! 40 isn’t that bad after all is it Symon!?

PS The pretty puddings were a Summer berry focaccia with a berry ice cream, a Gooseberry fool with gingerbread pig and a Garden mint mousse with chocolate ice cream. Yummy!

You're So Pretty Too!, Rocking Dog

You’re So Pretty Too!

Gooseberry Yumminess, Rocking Date

Gooseberry Yumminess

Piggy Fours, Rocking Dog

Piggy Fours

Cocktails, Rocking Dog

Cocktails

Sunny Coffee, Rocking Dog

Sunny Coffee

Out Front, Rocking Dog

Out Front

Exotic Peas, Rocking Dog

Exotic Peas

Spiky Vegetable, Rocking Dog

Spiky Vegetable

Potting Shed Treatment Anyone ? Rocking Dog

Potting Shed Treatment Anyone?

Best In Show- Frenchay Flower Show 2016

Flowers For The Show, Rocking Dog

Flowers For The Show

Rocking Dog was asked to help judge the food classes at Frenchay Flower Show on Saturday. It was a real experience- I do so love a good flower show. Having entered the childrens’ classes with handwriting, painting, miniature garden at this flower show half a century ago (how is that ever possible?!), it was a real honour to try my hand at judging.

Working with an experienced judge I worked my way through tasting about 25 pickles, 10 marmalades, 15 jams, fruit cakes, breads, shortbread, pastry items, and Victoria Sandwiches. If truth be known there were many pickles i’d have honestly rather not tasted…but it was all in a days work!

Predominantly it was about the flavour- definitely substance over style. It was an absolute bonus if a delicious product married with a beautifully labelled jar or pretty plate.

The most competitive class is that of baking a prizewinning Victoria Sandwich. In particular a group of men from the village set themselves the task of trying to win the prestigious red certificate. The cake has to be made with a prescribed list of ingredients and baked in a particular size of tin. You would think therefore that the twenty four or so cakes would look fairly uniform. Aahh no! Some cakes were eliminated at the beginning of the judging process because they had failed to rise, were over baked or had other cakey issues. Beatrice and I were left with a core of six or seven cakes that required further investigation. They were cut, tasted and then deliberated over. I am pleased to report that two men would be cawing about their prize winning cakes in the pub that evening!

Thankfully Beatrice and I very much agreed on every prizewinning jar, cake or loaf. However, I think the sourdough and artisan breads were rather new-fangled for her, and the crusts just a little too tough. Personally I think i’d have done a little bit of certificate swapping in this section! It’s such a subjective process.

One of our last tasks left was to break open some hens eggs to determine the freshness before awarding certificates for best clutch of freshly laid eggs.

Thankfully the wines were tasted by another set of judges, not only would I have been full I would have been literally staggering out of the marquee.

It was a really enjoyable two hours, and I got to learn so much. Although I wanted to stay and buy plants, browse and soak up the sun I was feeling a little jaded. I never did find out whether the hoped for Lancaster Bomber did its fly past. I hope so, it really is such a rare and wonderful sight.

Flowers, brass band, stalls, ice creams, patchwork, bees, cream teas, tombola, and radiant sunshine, it’s a quintessential little bit of English village life. Long may it continue.

Dazzling Dahlia, Rocking Dog

Dazzling Dahlia

Scented Blooms, Rocking Dog

Scented Blooms

Fiery Flowers, Rocking Dog

Fiery Flowers

Tidy Onions, Rocking Dog

Tidy Onions

Going For The Prize, Rocking Dog

Going For The Prize

Paper Fruit & Veg', Rocking Dog

Paper Fruit & Veg’

Best In Class, Rocking Dog

Best In Class

Preserves To Taste, Rocking Dog

Preserves To Taste

Embroidered Flowers, Rocking Dog

Embroidered Flowers

Bastille Day, July 14th 2016

Jenny Holzer, Guggenheim Museum , Venice. Rocking Dog

Jenny Holzer, Guggenheim Museum , Venice.

A sad day for the people of France and all of humanity.

Summer On A Plate

Peas In A Pod, Rocking Dog

Peas In A Pod

It was lovely to see the sun yesterday, it’s been such a funny old summer so far. The sun heralded the desire for freshly picked English crops, unfortunately nothing grown in the Rocking Dog garden. Ashamedly, my plot is not yielding anything apart from weeds and things of the somewhat wild floral variety!

Beetroot was peeled and diced and used to make a delicious and healthy soup. I always use a time favoured recipe from my Moro book. Voila! lunch sorted for a couple of days. I enjoy a little Greek yoghurt swirled through this particular soup.

I used to love seeing peas growing in my dad’s garden. The process would start with a good dig, then sieving the soil. Finally when Doug was happy with his soil, planting would begin. With Doug working for a seed company there was never a shortage of packets of seeds. Incidentally his workplace was a great place to play. The times my siblings and I would spend days jumping from towering piles of grain sacks in the warehouse. Recently my sister and I marvelled the fact that none of us had killed ourselves landing on the concrete floor! Back to the peas, Doug would meticulously space each of the pea seeds in shallow trenches. He would then gently cover the seeds with a layer of tilled soil and would water liberally. Later in the season bamboo canes and supporting strings would go up, more watering, and a nightly peruse to check on the crop.

I enjoyed podding my bag of peas, steamed I served them with some cod. The cod had been caught by Phil, a friend of my sons. Over the years we have enjoyed all the fishing talk, the catch of the day, filleting fish, “Extreme Fishing”, the one that got away etc.. etc.. I roasted the cod with strings of vine tomatoes, capers, lemon slices, Charlotte potatoes, olive oil and seasoning. Very simple, very delicious.

A plate of watermelon and raspberries completed this summery fest.

I hope the sun continues to shine and that you have a fantastic weekend.

Summer Digging, Rocking Dog

Summer Digging

Summer Colour, Rocking Dog

Summer Colour

Colourful Soup, Rocking Dog

Colourful Soup

Phil's Fish, Rocking Dog

Phil’s Fish

Ready To Eat, Rocking Dog

Ready To Eat

Summer Fruits, Rocking Dog

Summer Fruits