Sunday 25 October 2020

Wrapping up Warm

Hello Friends!

An Autumn morning slowly slips over the sleepy rooftops in the village.  Awakened by pale, mellow sunlight peeping through the windows, the cottages and houses, one by one, wake up and come to the life of a brand new day.  A soft light glows, an early morning mist swirls, and the subtle hues and tints of an Autumn morning, in all it's glory, with a feeling in the air that words cannot describe, but it touches your heart and you know it is there.  The wind and rain have gone, leaving everything sparkling and fresh; the sky is blue; the sun shines; and it's a perfectly beautiful day in the Shire, my friends.

but When the evening skies out to the west of my cosy cottage look wild and stormy, like this

and you can see the rain falling in curtains from the sky, like this

and when the early morning sky is cold and grey and looks like this

and when the last remaining apples desperately cling to the tree, like this

With the arrival of inclement weather imminent, few things bring more comfort than snuggling under a warm blanket, with a perfectly plumped up pillow tucked alongside me, as I curl up in my favourite armchair by the fireside, with a good book.

In a previous post I mentioned that I seem to have inadvertently fallen into collecting blankets, with no idea how this happened, it just did. It can be no bad thing, though, to have a pile of blankets and throws within easy reach as the weather turns colder, can it?

I have a few throws and travel rugs that belonged to my Grandmother, and when I worked in a local craft boutique that sold very popular, traditional Welsh tapestry in all manner of finished products, from lower price point coasters and place mats, to the high end bed spreads and evening capes, it would have been remiss of me indeed not to take advantage of a generous staff discount and weekly payment plan.

This was my first bed spread, in a gorgeous turkey red with tobacco brown accents and cream. It is from the {now closed} Dyffryn Mill in the beautiful Teifi Valley which spans the three counties of Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, and Carmarthenshire.

Another one from the same mill, in beautiful tone on tone blues, again with cream. These patterns are unique to the mill, and each mill has it's own identifying patterns unique to them.. You will notice the above one and this one are the same.

Traditional Welsh tapestry is woven on a loom, and is a "double cloth", which means the patterns are fully reversible. It's like getting two for the price of one. If you Google "Welsh Tapestry" it will give you many links to mills, regions, and more, including that omnipresent section "images of . . . " A very good site for vintage and antique Welsh blankets and quilts of any kind is the Jen Jones Welsh Quilts and Blankets centre in Lampeter., Ceredigion. Genuine Welsh woollen mills are on the decline, and now there are only about a dozen fully operational working mills in the entire country.. Two in my area are

Solva Woollen Mill {formerly Middle Mill} and


I was lucky enough to pick up three reversible floor rugs, very hardwearing, from Melin Tregwynt.. This one is in my hallway, and although instantly recognisable as Welsh tapestry, is quite a different pattern from the Dyffryn Mill bedspreads.

again, fully reversible

and this one is in my guest room

I picked up some random weave throws when I lived in Iceland, which is famous worldwide for the exceptionally hardwearing quality of it's woollen products. This is due, mainly to the fact that sheep are not shorn every year which produces a long staple which, when spun into yarn, produces a very strong fibre.

Here's another vintage Welsh woollen throw from the aforementioned Dyffryn Woollen Mill, which I bought well over forty years ago.  It's completely craftsman made, spun and woven at the mill from 100% Welsh wool..  I used it mainly as a car, or travel, rug on those long winter journeys when the passenger is a little chilly but the driver doesn't want the heating on as it makes them drowsy, back in those days when the heating blew from the dashboard and not individually controlled for each seat..  Now, it has a new purpose, covering an old and battered arm chair that is badly worn and in need of reupholstering, but which cannot now be done due to the current global pandemic.

Amongst the other blankets and throws are these, random weave made in Wales from recycled wool.  These are from Tweedmill in Flint.  I bought mine when I worked for the National Trust, way back in 2005, and with my staff discount I paid just £6.40 each.  Today, they have become a very popular item and can be found in many upmarket department stores selling in excess of £25.00!  Glad I bought mine when I did. They have been regularly used as picnic rugs, and despite being dry clean only, have not suffered on a cold, wool wash programme in my washing machine {although understand the risk you take if you do this}

Although not a rug or blanket, I still have the beautiful, cosily warm, cape my Grandmother saved up for and bought for me from Middle Mill in Solva.  It is now well over 50 years old, and in the colours of the Welsh flag. How I wish I could fit into it today!  My, I thought I was the Bee's Knees.

Beautifully finished, everything properly finished and bound, and fully lined

and while a typical, reversible double cloth weave, the garment is fully lined so not reversible as with the bedspreads.

During a recent, pre lockdown visit to a local mill shop, these are the beautifully folded and displayed tapestry spreads in such a mouth watering array of colours

and outside, to brighten any bleak winter afternoon, the offcuts are imaginatively used to create bunting!

What lovely blankets and quilts do you have, my friends, that keep you snug as a bug during the chillier Autumn evenings?  Maybe you have a big, roaring fire to keep you warm?

Did I mention the clocks went back this morning? My least favourite day of all! Now I need everything cosy even more than ever before!

Before I sign off today, thank you all for your very kind thoughts and birthday wishes on my previous post.

Until next time
Stay safe and stay well
Deborah xo

Saturday 17 October 2020

October Days

Hello Friends! 

In other news, I keep a large 500ml refillable pump of 70% alcohol hand sanitising gel on the small telephone stand in the hall.  It's a practice I established when I was caring for my mother.  It's centrally located in my cottage, and makes it conveniently quicker and easier to splodge out a blob if someone comes to the door than it is to wrestle with the fiddlier pocket size ones.  So, I gave this important corner a little seasonal makeover with some of my many pinecones.. 

I treated myself to two new, Autumn fragrance, Yankee Candles.  I love the warm and comforting gentle glow of candle light, and they have a good throw of fragrance that's just right for my living room.  This one is Autumn Glow, full of a soft, seasonal warmth of patchouli, which I love.  It is a rich, deep plum colour, which I favour, and in the dark evening it glows like light shining through a glass of good Bordeaux wine.

I have several Mary Engelbreit books, and haven't forgotten I promised to share my Autumn and seasonal books too!  Another day!

Humphrey Dormouse has a big bag of swag over his shoulder.  I think he's been out foraging the fields and hedgerows for his Autumn kitchen store cupboards.

I wonder if it's full of bright, red berries, like these?

The teacup and saucer is a little charity shop find from a few years ago.  It's by Johnson Bros, made in England, and has a pattern not dissimilar to my favourite and much loved Evesham pattern from Royal Worcester porcelain, but this is by , and was just 50p. Who doesn't love a bargain?

My fat quarters for my Christmas face masks have arrived.  They are so lovely, I can't wait to work with them.  They won't all go for face masks, I love the prints too much and think a patchwork table runner for my entrance might be on the agenda too.  Aren't they just darling?

I have prewashed one set on 60 degrees, ready for mask making, the other set {identical} will make some soft furnishings..  I do wish I ordered yardage now, but then Empress Mills has recently had in some heavenly designed fabrics by Lewis and Irene which are rather delicious too. 

Here's a spot of colouring I did on a heavy printed cardstock using alcohol ink pens.  I wonder if I could use it to refurbish an old tray using Mod Podge and a suitable sealer, for it perfectly fits into the base?

As I type this, Wales is facing the prospect in the coming week of a second three week long lockdown, or "Circuit Breaker" as they are calling it,. to try and stop the spread of the "You Know What" as it is now spinning out of control.  We are approaching winter, and with seasonal colds and 'flu to deal with, this step is being taken to try to reduce the "R" number in order to protect the NHS.  God bless them all!  Why, oh why don't people do as they've been asked and socially distance themselves and wear masks.?  It's such a small and simple thing to do.

It is my birthday this coming week, and it's going to be a strange one.  I can't even say it will be "just another day" because days in our world are not days as we know them at all now.  Although we speak on the phone several times a week, it is the first time in years I will not meet up with my Godmother, who I have not seen since February.  I will be indulging myself with treats at home instead.  Two days after my birthday marks the second anniversary of my mother's passing, and all the sadness this brings will be amplified because I will not be able to light a candle for her at church..  These are, indeed, difficult days but we must all pull together and make these sacrifices to help our fellow humans through this ongoing crisis.

Until next time
Stay safe and stay well
Deborah xo

Monday 12 October 2020

The Heart in My Art

Hello Friends!

One thing I discovered during lockdown, if later rather than sooner, is that my days always go better if I start them off with something creative.  This can be anything.  Writing Morning Pages, making art, crafting, baking, photography, blogging, or gardening. Anything that gets me creating, making something useful or pretty, and, importantly, that distracts me from the trials of the world.  It clears my mind of those unwanted thoughts, the voices that disturb and distract, it sharpens my focus.  Getting creative with housework doesn't count.

For some time, I have put my creativity mostly into baking, which probably hasn't done me any good.  All those yummy, calorie laden cakes and fresh baked bread which require consumption! {which reminds me, today it's scones}  I think we've all done our fair share of comfort eating in recent months. 

Quite simply, even though I am not very good at it, art used to be my world, but my heart has not been in my art for some time; it's always been on the periphery, but never where it truly belongs, which is at the centre of my being.  As my life's purposes changed over several years from art student, to a string of jobs including National Trust employee, to full time care giver, I have gone from being in an art studio all day long to barely having enough time to shower, brush my teeth and comb my hair.  

Slowly, my heart slipped out of my art and, while there was little I could do about it, I missed it and grieved for its absence in my life.  Sometimes you have to be engulfed by the dark so you can see how bright the light shines.

Recently, as the need to create through the media of art returns to my life, I have been doodling, and playing with colour and {mostly} paint and watercolours.  I tried to get myself back into the swing of things during ICAD 2020 but fell by the wayside so quickly that it shocked me to the core.  I have no idea why, I have always enjoyed, and completed, the 61 day challenge. 

Here are some of the pieces I did, and considering I have done little or no art in years it was like going from nought to sixty in three seconds.

I enjoyed doing what I did, but knew there was no point in forcing myself.  {note to self:  Hearts, sunflowers, and mushrooms seem to be a recurring theme in my work}  Nothing good ever comes from forcing it.

So, time passed, my creativity continued to channel into baking, inclement weather governed my spasmodic gardening, and then there was baking, and more baking. Until a few weeks ago when cleaning some shelves, I found some old colouring books and I pulled out my paints again.  I am not very good at drawing, so colouring books give me the lines to play with my paints.  I love few things more than pushing paint and colour around on paper.

Here's a few of the pages I did from the Johanna Basford "Enchanted Forest" book.

These first three images are a two page spread I tried to colour in a graduated rainbow

her work is so intricate and detailed, sometimes I struggle to complete a page, so this one sits awaiting my patience to return!

I thought about participating in Inktober but it didn't speak to me.

Here's some pages from my on the go A5 pocket sketch book.  I love how the media sometimes bleeds through and gives a different look from the other side.

This stylised tree is a motif I return to from time to time and work through in different ways

So, for now, as the gardening winds down and the soil and borders and pots and containers are put to bed for the Winter; as the calorie laden baking has to be reconsidered; as mask making continues; and as I once more turn to the daily practice of Morning Pages, so I will make time during the day for art.  I know my heart has returned to my art, and I know I will be all the better for it, no matter how small a piece I do each day.

Do you have any creative practices that keep your mind and soul together? We all need a creative distraction in these peculiar times in which we live.

Until next time,
Stay safe, Stay well
Deborah xo