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Sunday, 28 August 2011

Solveig Hisdal

I used to knit a lot many years ago, but with changing fashion and new stitching interests, knitting needles found their way into a draw. But with so many beautiful wools and designs around I felt recently that I would like to "knit something", but I could not find the right project.
My dilemma was solved when I came across this beautiful book by a top Norwegian designer, Solveig Hisdal.

All the designs in this book are knitted using Norwegian technique (knitting the whole body of the garment in one go on circular needles and then cutting into it for openings ), which I have not done before, but I want to try. It wasn't easy to choose which design to make. Also, the wool used is not available in UK, but I like to knit using the original wool, as it can be sometime difficult to find the right substitute and right colours.
Fortunately I was able to order the required wool directly from the Norwegian manufacturer,
Placing my order on Thursday, my wool arrived yesterday!

I can't wait to get started!

The Swan


Pubs and restaurants have been closing all over UK, due to the economic climate. Many villages have lost their "local", the very important part of a village social life.
So, it is good to hear the opposite.
"The Swan" in Wedmore, Somerset, closed its doors more then a year ago and for many months it looked like this was the end of another very old pub. But The Swan was lucky, it was bought by Draco company and brought back to life. It opened its doors again this weekend, as a pub, a restaurant and a hotel.
Why am I telling you this?
Because it was our DS who moved to Somerset early this year, to be a part of the team resurrecting The Swan. His role was to oversee the the transformation of the place, to liaison with architects, builders, designers, supplies; to recruit and train new staff and as from this weekend, to manage it.
I was lucky to see the building before the builders moved in, so I can appreciate the enormous change. It has been restored very sympathetically, taking into the account the age of the building (some parts date back to the eighteenth century), but at the same time serving the requirements of the twenty first.

Please take a tour around The Swan, and if ever you happen to be in this part of England, do pop in, you will be made very welcome.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Somerset willow

We have come to Wetlands Centre on Somerset Levels to collect a log basket for DS's and girlfriend's new house.

The local basketmakers make high quality products, all hand made, using locally grown willow.
There is also a museum here showing the history of this local industry, and a tea room.
I love baskets and so I love coming here.
Our house is already full of their products, including wicker furniture, but I still love to browse in the shop.

And every time I come here I suddenly remember that I "really need" another basket, and today is no different!

We drove back across the Levels and although it wasn't a day for sightseeing, we decided to make a small detour and visit the Stembridge Tower Mill, built in 1822, the last remaining thatched windmill in England,

which has been restored by the National Trust.

In the garden next to the mills is an old Mulberry tree.

There is also something else growing here.

Do you hang up a mistletoe at Christmas? Do you know how it grows?
Mistletoe is a parasitic plant, which grows from other trees, in this area mainly from old apple trees.

You can see from the spots on the picture that it was raining by then and time to go home.


Thursday, 11 August 2011

Norwegian inspiration

This has been a very strange summer, one we will remember, and I am not talking only about the weather. My mind has turned to other memories, some good, some not so.
I would like to share with you a wonderful one, another story of inspiration.
It all started with this large coffee table book, which DH and I bought many years ago, full of beautiful photographs of Scandinavian design and its simplicity, which we both love.

           But there is a picture which stood out; a picture of a house which we loved, somewhere in Norway. To be more precise, in a place called Balestrand, on the shore of Sognefjord, the longest and deepest of Norwegian fjords. And it had a story......
We said that one day we will go and find that house.

Some years later, in June, 8 years ago, we went on a journey. We packed the car, drove up to Newcastle and took a 24 hour ferry to Bergen, on the west coast of Norway. After an overnight stay in Bergen we drove north to Sognefjord, took a ferry across and then followed the fjord east. The fjord is over 100 miles long. And as we were driving in a heavy rain, we could not help wondering if this was a such  good idea. Eventually we arrived in Balestrand, on dark, cold and wet day. Our small, family owned hotel was warm and cosy.
The next morning the sun came out and at last we could see the beauty of the place. We stayed for 3 days.
And yes, we found "our" house, you could not miss it, Balestrand is not a big place. 
From the late nineteen century until his death it was a home of the artist Hans Dahl, one of many artists who were attracted to Balestrand by its beauty, by the contrast of water and mountains, and the clear light you find here.
This villa is one of several in "dragon style", built by newcomers, in the Swiss style, very popular at the time.
Hans Dahl, when studying in Germany, became a friend of Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Kaiser Wilhelm paid Hans Dahl a visit, in the summer of 1914. He arrived on a three-stack steamer, accompanied by a flotilla of twenty four warships, all of which laid anchor in the fjord just off the house's dock. It must had been a sight!
We spent our time just wandering around Balestard and its surroundings. All the time we were there the weather was glorious, a beautiful Scandinavian summer. At night it did not get dark, it was mid June, close to the longest day and so far north the nights stay light. Our hotel room overlooked the fjord, calm and beautiful in the middle of the night.
In the middle of this small town was a small shop, with a studio above, belonging to Bjorg Bjoberg, a local artist. We got talking to this lovely lady, she showed us around her studio and told us about many artist who come and spend time here.
We both fell in love with her work. Bjorg paints what she sees around her, images of Balestrand and many, many wild flowers. She illustrated this book, which is a sort of walking guide to this lovely place.

And here is the house again

Although her shop was quite small, she was already an owner of a large yellow house across the street, which she showed us around and talked about her future plans for it.

Balestrand and meeting Bjorg made a huge impression on me. I came away wanting to paint!
(I should point out here that I could never draw or paint).

Unfortunately I could not afford one of her original paintings, but a couple of her prints have been hanging on our wall since.

And there was another a very special moment. It was here we received a phone call from our daughter telling us that she just got engaged.

Did I take up painting? No, not so far. But meeting Bjorg Bjoberg inspired me to look around, to notice the beauty of simple things.

And may be this was about a different inspiration. It was about a picture in a book, which inspired two middle aged people ( I am being very kind here), to go on a journey.

Will we ever go back to Balestrand? Probably not, the memories are too good.....

You can read more about Bjorg Bjoberg here, see what she has done with her yellow house.
(You might need Google to translate).

Also, you can see more of Balestrand here.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

this week's progress

I have at last got to the quilting part of my "red quilt". However, my idea of sitting and quilting in the garden has again become just another silly idea. The weather is not playing this game this year, again it has been very unpredictable, with some heavy rain and bits of blue in between, some very cold winds thrown in. Definitively no warm evenings with BBQ and a glass of something on the terrace.

The autumn is not so far away, may be I should think about Christmas instead?
Back to my Scandinavian Christmas Quilt,
so with blocks 1 & 2 completed,

start of block no 3.

And some progress on the Jacobean embroidery.

With the red quilt at the quilting stage and not being in the Christmas mood just yet, I have an idea in my mind to make a "summer quilt". I have the fabrics, I just need some ideas for a design, or am I getting a bit ahead of myself? The next summer is a long way away, but then - we still could have an Indian summer in September! Yes, I am a natural optimist!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

my first ebook

I must admit that I have not paid much attention to ebooks until now. I prefer to hold my book and read it where I choose to sit. As I am not an owner of a laptop, ebook would mean to be sitting in the front of my computer in my room, which I feel I am doing too much of as it is.
So when I was reading on Mary Jenkins's blog about her new book being published as an ebook, I was in two minds about it. But I already have one of Mary's books, "Making Welsh Quilts", which she is a co-author of, and I love this book, so I could not resist and I sent my order in.

"Little Welsh Quilts" arrived yesterday, 2 days after I pressed the button on my computer!

I was exited when it arrived and despite the fact that I did not actually have time to have a good look, I had to load it into my computer immediately to at least have a quick peak.
I love it! No, I can't take it with me to the garden and read while relaxing there (it is raining today anyway). It is beautifully laid out and easy to read, the little quilt projects are so sweet.
But also, it includes video tutorials by Mary herself, which will be very helpful.

Mary talks about her new book and also explains her reasons for publishing it in this way on her blog .

Little Welsh Quilts was published by Rainbow Disks, where you can also order your copy.

Congratulations, Mary!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

start of red quilt

So you would not think I have completely forgotten what this blog is about, I can at least show you the start of my new quilt, I am calling it the "red quilt", because the idea for it came from the piece of a red vintage fabric I bough at TT fair in May.

Considering that it was damaged and stained in quite a few places, I managed to cut a few good squares.
I have finished the centre of the quilt and now I have to think about the border. Although I had a rough idea how I would like the quilt to look, it has been a case of making it up as I go along, seeing how the fabrics work together.

I can't wait to get to the to the quilting part, as my plan is to hand quilt it, while enjoying being in our garden, now the summer has arrived. Of course, that it is presuming the weather will last!

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