Monday, December 16, 2013

A Bit Blue But Mostly In The Pink

One of the best parts about a weekend when there is a good market on is getting back to Shoestring Cottage and unwrapping all the many and varied treasures such an expedition produces.  Usually there is a quiet time of sighing, stroking and exclaiming over the wondrous bargains the market can turn up.  This weekend I was doing just that when it occurred to me that there was a definite blue cast to my purchases.  Last weekend I bought the strange little vessels with forget me nots on them which might have been the start of it all.

This weekend I found a heavenly silk paisley “Peerless” lounging robe for Mr Shoestring, complete with its original tie (often they are missing) and these lovely details on the pockets. 

I was unsure as to how he would receive this gift and slightly alarmed when he accepted it with enthusiasm and declared, “Great, I can become a lounge lizard!”  I am hoping this doesn’t mean he intends to retire from home improvements at Shoestring Cottage, rest on his laurels and take up cigar smoking, whisky drinking and generally become a bit of a wastrel.  I shall have to keep a close eye on developments there.  It has been my experience that too much leisure is bad for a man, Mr Shoestring being no exception.  

The next blue treasure was this art deco looking bracelet (no doubt encrusted with real sapphires and seed pearls!) which will be perfect to wear at next February’s deco.

I will have to make sure I have a suitable ensemble to set off the bracelet, I know I have some perfect navy crocheted gloves and some suitable shoes stashed away somewhere.  I had better get out one of the blue “frocks” and add some decofications to it, maybe a collar, sleeve trims and pockets to set it off nicely.  The Dancing Queen is usually very lady like and proper in her deco costumery, and is sure to be impressed.  
Perhaps the best thing of all was this matching set of blue rose earrings and brooch. 

I have long been wanting to start a collection of this of Denton china jewellery, I read that the ladies who originally made them can recognize their own work and each one must have slightly different ways of putting the flowers together.  A blue rose would not be my first choice (blue roses seem wrong somehow, like red delphiniums, and I have never thought a blue rose was a good thing to try to breed) but it is hard to find them in good condition, usually there is some damage to the petals.  Also there is the matter of cost, and these ones were very cheap.  Screw on earrings are a bit of a pesky nuisance but Mr Shoestring can convert these ones into pierced earrings for me (when he is not sitting around smoking cigars and drinking whiskey, wearing his blue silk robe and possibly wearing a fez). 

Even one of the plants I got from the stallholders at the market was blue, despite the fact that I was trying to stick to my resolve to get more white plants for the white corner in the garden.  This pretty little campanula with its wiry stems will hopefully be a good doer (like most campanula) and fill a vacant spot. 

Not all was blue though, the other good find was this little pink souvenir from the South Seas Exhibition of 1889.  

I had an idea that the exhibition took place in Dunedin and a little reading confirmed this to be the case.  I was charmed to discover that at the South Seas Exhibition they recreated the Eiffel tower, only in wood.  Surely only in New Zealand could such an undertaking take place.  On the very year when the Eiffel tower was created for the World’s Fair, and was the talk of the world, showing off the way iron could be used structurally in ways previously undreamt of, only would we erect a similar structure using homely old wood.  It is surprising to think that the iconic Eiffel tower originally caused howls of outrage from the artistic community, who believed it to be “useless and monstrous”.  The Otis elevator company used the wooden “Eiffel” tower at the South Seas Exhibition to show off the wildly modern and revolutionary elevators they were hoping to promote in New Zealand

In the garden there was a lot of pink going on as well, in fact lately the recent additions seem to have had a bit of a pink theme.  My mum gave me some big bromeliads which she was casting off as they were too prickly to weed around. 

She has been waging a war against snails of late and giving me reports as to their dwindling numbers each morning after she completes snail patrol.  She originally reported culling more than 100 in the mornings and eventually there were only three, then on one wonderful day none at all!  Imagine my horror to discover great numbers of them all clustered within the protective leaves of the bromeliads, some of them engaged in unspeakable acts.  For one moment with the paranoia of gardeners around the world,  I wondered whether my mum had given up on destroying her snails and decided to simply export them to my garden, but that would be too harsh. 
 Apple blossom pink geranium flowers
 More brash and larger geranium flowers (also pink)
 Pink begonias
 Pink foliage on the heucheras
 Pink "polka dot" plant leaves

Pink bromeliad flowers

This (pink) hollyhock is a stately specimen I grew from seed. 

The only fly in the ointment is the fact that they are terribly susceptible to rust and according to gardening lore each rust affected leaf must be destroyed (or the spores will live in the ground and proliferate), so each weekend I remove more and more leaves until there is left a somewhat grotesque looking towering stem with blossoms but hardly any foliage.  The best hollyhocks I ever grew were a kind called “powder puff” and they were the most beautiful soft apricot shade, the petals looking like crushed crepe paper.  I might have another try with them but for now I found some old seed lying around which is supposed to be a “black” hollyhock, and so will use that up first.  Imagine black hollyhocks amongst the white garden, very effective and striking. 

But enough of these diversions, the white garden will eventually triumph over pink and blue pretenders - once I can overcome this temptation to flirt with all the more vibrant shades on offer.  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Summer Showers

After a week of wind and rain I was hoping the plants in the garden at Shoestring Cottage would not all have been flattened.  Luckily though some of the holllyhocks had blown over and the lavatera were a bit the worse for wear, most things had survived quite well and the birds hadn't denuded the blackberry of all its fruit.

Best of all, the passionfruit vine which I planted a couple of seasons ago with such high hopes has romped away and is covered with fruit, while still having some flowers as well.  It looks set to be a bumper crop and a long season.  I am researching recipes to make the most of these crops and I will post the best of them with the rest of the recipes.  The Duke of Ringloes keeps on sending me photos via his cellphone of Eton Mess puddings he has been eating, so I plan to outdo him with my own Blackberry Eton Mess.  Watch for further developments.      
The birds have kept up their persecution of me this week.  I was astonished to see that less than five minutes after I planted some seedlings in a small strip of earth between a concrete path and a fence (because in a small garden it's essential to make the most of every space after all, wouldn't you agree?), they had come along behind me and wrenched most of them straight out.  

Having said that though, I have to admit to feeling some sympathy for the poor starlings raising their ungrateful young in the bird house.  All day long the babies keep up a constant shrill demand for food and the parents must be exhausted by nightfall.  I fancy the parents are starting to look somewhat disheveled and scruffy because they have no time left for themselves and certainly no peace from the demanding offspring.  The babies are getting very large now and I sometimes think it is time they fended for themselves.  At this rate they could grow too big to exit the nesting box and be condemned to a life indoors.  
 Feed us, feed us, we are starving!  Where are you?
 Hurry up, I need food right now!  
And about time too, where have you been?

One of the big successes this weekend was the selection of hydrangeas which were kindly donated last year as cuttings.  Now they are blossoming their hearts out, and what a big range of flower forms and colours there are.  They are so prolific that the small plants can barely support the blossoms, some of which are drooping down onto the earth.  Not all of them have flowered yet but the ones which have are very pretty.  

The fuchsias are enjoying all the rain and haven't been too much affected by the wind either. 
Last year's attempt at growing the flamboyant gloriosa rothschildiana was a dismal failure and eventually I resorted to buying a plant which was already in flower.  It has rewarded me by sprouting again this spring and I love the way the tendrils all wrap round each other in an effort to support themselves.  I have planted some more this season and am thrilled to see that some have started to push through the soil.  Strangely, the instructions which came with the tubers were that if in pots the plants should not be moved once planted, because they align themselves according to the directions of the compass and can strangle their own emerging shoots if they become confused!  Therefore the ones I put in pots have been very carefully marked as to which way they need to remain facing if the pots need to be moved.  Most curious.  I am terrified I will one day do the wrong thing and I can just imagine them in a dreadful situation of subterranean self-strangulation.  It is a very bit responsibility, looking after these delicate divas.   I only hope I am up to the task.  

Monday, December 2, 2013

Naming And Shaming A Repeat Offender

A couple of weeks ago when I finally finished the floral tumbling blocks quilt I was fired with enthusiasm and very pleased with myself.  I decided to call it “Tumbling Flowers” or “Blossom Where You Fall” but for some time before that I wanted to call it “The Infinity Quilt” because it felt as though I would never come to the end of it.  

So encouraged was I by the completion of a quilt which has probably taken me at least 10 years to make (I am fortunate the fabric hasn’t started to disintegrate) that I resolved to press on and finish some of the other unfinished quilts I had stashed in the storage room.  First of all I toyed with the idea of finishing this one

But then I remembered a somewhat similar one which I suspected was nearer completion.  Resolving to find that one and finish it first, I turned the cottage and then the apartment inside out in an effort to find the elusive pieces of the quilt.  A couple of weeks of frantic fossicking around and I still could not find it.  Surely I would never have thrown it away by mistake?  In the end there was nothing for it but to borrow Mr Shoestring’s ladder and climb to the uppermost reaches of the storage cupboards in my sewing room.  (I felt as though I should warn Mr Shoestring, “I am going up now, Mr Shoestring, if I am not back in two hours send up a search party” in case I got up there and was sucked into the mire of fabric and half finished projects, never to be seen again.)  At last after some cautious clambering around in the top cupboard, there it was!  What a relief and how good to see it again, like seeing an old friend. 

But what wasn’t such a good thing was the fact that I realized I had at least 10 unfinished projects and had slowly, gradually but most definitely become a serial non-finisher of projects.  (I always think of craft ventures as being “more about the journey than the destination”, but this was getting ridiculous.)  Having recently started yet two more quilts (the chicken one and the teacups one) I realized it was to take myself firmly in hand and resolve not to start one more quilt until these old timers are finally completed.  Quite a few of them must have been on the go for more than 10 years.  So down they all came from the top cupboard and other places they had been lurking, and here some of them are.  By confessing my secret shame I hope to reform myself and become a finisher as well as a starter … one day.  Because I like to hand piece and hand quilt mostly this is all going to take a long time, but it is good to have a plan at least.  

One good thing about having put them away and given them a bit of a break is that with the benefit of time I can see clearly how best to proceed.  Th one below for instance with the medallion centre and then the black florals around the centre, is in danger of becoming a jumble of black floral fabrics with no discernible pattern.  I think what it needs is a definitely different border around the part which has been completed so far, perhaps a border print (floral of course, with perhaps a stripe incorporated as well) and then perhaps some pale florals or more florals with the black background. 

Because I like to hand piece and hand quilt this is all going to take a long time, but it is good to have a plan at least.  The obsession with hexagons is an ongoing theme, and some of these quilts are variations upon a theme.  What often happens is that one quilt sparks the idea for another one, as happened with the chickens and teacups quilts – a perfect way to use a “theme” and get rid of some of those fabrics in the stash saved for something special.  Also there is always the little difficulty of the left overs from other projects – that is how the black floral quilt was started, left overs from the tumbling flowers. 

This colour wash using florals was started in an effort to use up those old 5” squares, from when I used to belong to a club and have them sent out monthly. 

And these two square and diamond quilts were also started to use up small scraps left over from other quilts.  Though hand piecing and quilting them really is time consuming it is also relaxing and one day when they are finished (if such a happy time ever comes), it will all be worthwhile!  

The silk ties quilt is still not complete, though it is very promising and very close to being finished.  (Well, quite close, apart from the actual quilting.)

This hexagon star will be my opus.  It only uses three templates but the possibilities are endless.  
I had better promise myself to do no more on it though until the others are complete - a likely story!

Each time you start a new block and fussy cut your pieces to make a design you think it is your best yet, and then when you string them all together the results are very satisfying.