Monday, 22 August 2016

Notes From My Summer

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I'm not sure how so many weeks have passed, but it's been a busy summer and suddenly the evenings are getting dark early and it doesn't feel too long until it will be over, however, we have a few highlights still to come, including going camping with several other families to celebrate a friend's 40th birthday. My husband tells me that like dogs, iPhones, areas of land not covered by pavement, wellingtons and numerous other things that I've previously claimed not to like and then subsequently learned to love, the same will be true of camping. Our four-day camping adventure will take place at a location that proudly distances itself from any form of glamping; I'm not sure why anyone would actively choose to cut themselves off from a hairdryer, but if I find enlightenment on that then I'll report back on my return. I generally read while drying my hair, so it's not a mirror and styling brush event, but if allowed to dry naturally my hair has a propensity to sneakily rise like a loaf of bread left to prove until it has doubled in size and inhibits my passing through doorways easily. I've yet to formulate a game plan to try and avoid the loaf effect, so please do share any tips the you might have if you're a more experienced camper who harbours a love of creature comforts and normal-sized hair (I know that not everyone has hair that expands alarmingly with natural drying, but I'm assuming there must be someone out there like me). Not washing it isn't an option, due to my dislike of it not feeling clean being greater than my fear of being Mrs Loaf Head, although that may be subject to change once showering facilities have been sighted, which are apparently 'basic'. There's a temptation for my face to become fixed in Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' pose at this point, but for the thought that the company is guaranteed to be lovely. 

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Earlier in the summer we spent a dreamy week in the Cotswolds (with electricity and hairdryers in every room) where my parents joined us for a few days too. We spent the time walking, eating ice-cream, pottering around pretty villages and generally watching the sky change (pictured above). I also fitted in plenty of sewing in the evenings. We then spent over eight hours winding our way back home through the countryside to avoid the motorway. My husband map-read me on a surprise detour when he noticed that we were only twenty minutes away from a village where I'd lived as a four, five and six year old, before my family moved to Australia. In my head, this place has existed as a thing of perfection: it's never raining there and everything about it is idyllic. It wasn't raining when we visited, but seen through an adult's eyes, it didn't actually possess any particular charm either. The sundial in the front garden that I sat skulking beneath with a small suitcase on the occasions when I decided to 'leave home' was gone; the roses that my sister and I used to make litres of precious perfume from every summer seemed to have disappeared and there were no small children swinging on the large wooden gate that spanned the driveway pretending it was a horse, which is what we seemed to spend most of our days doing for the time that we lived there. Even the dilapidated farmyard opposite our house, which had been been the home to many chickens scratting about, had left to make way for an estate of new houses. It's good to have removed the rose-tinted glasses that my six year old self created and to know that I can cross this off my list of 'Perfect Villages That We Could Move to When We Are Older'. 

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Our house has spent the summer being turned upside down as we had some electrical work done and decided to replace the wooden work surfaces that we had put in eight years ago that haven't fared particularly well - somehow, this resulted in an entire ceiling and wall being replastered, floors being ripped up and other unexpected delights. My father came over and helped me repaint (my husband had injured his back lifting what he thought was a suitcase of clothes into the car, but what was actually a suitcase filled mainly with hardback books - the surprise of this unexpected extra weight seemed to throw his back out and left him unable to paint). Only people who know my father well can truly appreciate what a sacrifice helping me paint was, but I felt incredibly touched and we merrily splattered the old work surfaces with paint anticipating that they'd be gone within a week...several weeks later we are still surrounded by paint splattered surfaces as the whole thing has a slightly mañana time scale to it, due to there being so many other things going on at the moment and because it's taken forever to decide on basic things...like what we want to replace the work surface with (finally chosen samples seen above). My mother left the pink roses for me to arrive home to on August 1st and they have somehow looked wonderful until August 19th, making them the most joy-giving flowers imaginable as well as providing welcome visual distraction from the paint-splattered surfaces for over a fortnight. 

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Other lovely things from my summer have been suddenly spotting this drain cover on a rainy street that I've walked down many times before - this may well reappear in quilt form at some point. And Rifle Paper's long-awaited fabric line finally arriving to keep my favourite notepad company.

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I raced up to Birmingham one day to visit the wonderful Festival of Quilts - it was a complete delight (both the people I met and the quilts), although I realised when I arrived home that I'd missed several quilts that I would have loved to have seen - I find the layout is quite confusing and the display of quilts feels to be mixed closely around the retail areas, meaning it's easy to lose focus and to be sucked away into the heavenly vortex of quilt-related pop up shops that exist there for the four days that the festival is on. The quilt below is from the Splendid Shreds of Silk and Satin exhibition, curated by Tracy Chevalier, which celebrates Charlotte Bronte in quilts. It's sewn by the Totley Brook Quilters group as a modern interpretation of an original quilt created by the Bronte sisters. Gorgeous.

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My favourite exhibition was a small display of quilts from Kaffe Fassett's private collection - these quilts were breathtaking, especially for anyone obsessed by English paper piecing.

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Loveliest of all the lovely summer things though, was my girl asking if she could do some English paper piecing. I was busy at the time, so she made her own way with sewing the pieces together, having seemingly picked it up by osmosis. I'm so pleased that I couldn't actually be in the same room to make 'helpful suggestions' as she probably had far more fun working things out for herself and perfecting her technique - while the first flower has more visible stitches, those on the half-finished yellow flower are barely perceptible - I remember being completely delighted by working out what I needed to do differently to achieve that. 

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I hope you're having a happy August, 
Florence x
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