Upton House & Garden 

Well hello! I know, it’s been a while… I never really do much crochet or knitting during the summer, but this year I haven’t sewn yet either. I thought you might be interested to see somewhere I recently visited and found fascinating. I admit there are a lot of typewriter photos, I just loved them!

Upton House and Gardens in Warwickshire, is a National Trust Property with a current exhibition called: Banking for Victory. It once belonged to Lord Bearstead, whose father founded Shell Oil. (More information here.) In 1939 the family moved out of the house and the family bank relocated from London, for the duration of the Second World War. Mary Berry opened this exhibition last Autumn. I finally got around to visiting earlier this month.

This is the film tent with a little introductory film to the exhibition…      



The exhibition is superb. The great thing is that the NT do not want you to treat it as a museum, you are actively encouraged to open drawers, sit on chairs and sofas and basically be the nosy Parker that I you always want to be, but feel you can’t in most NT properties. Needless to say I sat and typed a paragraph at one of the typewriters, what no spell check? I opened some filing cabinets, rifled through the in/out trays and read some correspondence, read some Wartime newspapers and sat in the Bank Manger’s chair!

The attention to detail in the house is fantastic. For example: there are toothbrushes and hairbrushes in the dormitories, and much more, open magazines and knitting which seem to have been put down for a minute in the staff room, postcards displayed from local villages and towns and maps of cycle routes.

The bank staff left families and friends in London to live and work at Upton. It seems that they had a ‘good war’ living in the relative safety of the countryside, but lived with guilt knowing their loved ones were in danger and suffering in the war-torn city.

This doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to me, but different times perhaps?!

Knitting! I found knitting!

The project is something you can become involved in, if you fancy. See here for details. You have until 30th September deadline if you want to send some bunting. What really impressed me, while I knitted a bunt (is this the singular of bunting?!) and chatted to one of the organisers is that at the end the finished triangles will be stitched together to make blankets for charity. What a great idea and a practical use of the knitting at the end. I often wonder what becomes of things after yarn bombs and record attempts. I didn’t take a pic of my knitting. I’m not sure why, but you really didn’t miss much!

Today was a return visit to Upton as it poured after the tour around the house, so the gardens had to wait. I’m glad actually as the herbaceous border is now stunning with all the sun we’re enjoying. It was a lovely hot day.

Are you crafty during the summer, or more like me?

Gin in Camden, Lunch in Shoreditch

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When I saw an ad for a gin tasting session and afternoon tea in Camden, north London with GandTeatime (such a clever name) the name of a friend of mine popped straight into mind. Over the years we’ve continually discussed our favourite gins, given each other many a birthday or Christmas bottle and speculated about the worthiness of a new brand.

The afternoon got off to a great start; we grabbed a table, filled a plate with all kinds of garnishes: lime, lemon, mint, coriander, mint, cucumber and/or pink grapefruit and enjoyed a glass of punch as we got to know the others.
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Throughout the tastings we were given all the facts you could possibly want about gin, the origin and process of making it, as well as some historical facts about the time leading up to the Gin Act. We looked at Hogarth’s prints (see here) of London’s ‘Beer Alley’ and ‘Gin Lane.’ These are the martinis we were given to finish with, I actually liked mine and realised the reason I’ve never thought I liked it before is because one of my family makes them firewater strength!
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We sampled this selection of gins, tasting each neat, discussing the flavours and then mixing it with tonic to our taste, adding all kinds of combos of garnishes. One of our table was extremely creative with hers, when she crushed some juniper berries into one glass we all stopped and admired her panache! As we went through each gin everyone gave a show of hands as to their favourite. No one voted for Beefeater, but I reckon it’s because it’s the cheaper one you grow up drinking (this did raise a few eyebrows as people wondered if I’d been suckled on a bottle of the good stuff) and your tastes move on to other tastes? The saffron gin was interesting, but ended up tasting exactly like Pimms when I drank it with orange and mint.

We decided Plymouth gin was the winning favourite on our table. I’ll buy a bottle next, after the Butlers (buy this gin if you too love the flavour of cardamon, it’s delicious drunk with tonic, lashings of ice and slices of cucumber) Chase and Hayman’s are dry…
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We shouldn’t have but the girls on our table were so nice that we got chatting and had a cocktail with them. Then we had another cocktail and lots more chat and it was early evening and time to head off. We all staggered together to the tube, then after quite a few tipsy hugs and kisses we all went our separate ways!

If you can do something similar then make sure you have lots of afternoon tea. I swear the cake soaked up the gin superbly. (Trifle tummy?!) This was a really fun afternoon, and a bit of different thing to do with a friend.
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A few days later I went to have lunch with another friend in Shoreditch. The East End is not an area of London that I know very well so it was interesting to have a look around. Tube trains on a roof? What’s that all about?! I’ve found a GREAT blog post here which tells you who, why, when and what. It’s fascinating.
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Next time we’re going here for street food. It looks funky and the smells smelt good.
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After lunch I dived into Forge and Co on Shoreditch High Street to see Grant Fleming’s The End of Apartheid (free) photo exhibition.
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This greets you as you go down the stairs to the gallery space. It gave me goosebumps.
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The room was big, you start on the left-hand side (not shown) and work your way around. The candid style of photography is really effective; conveying so much of the emotion of the time.
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Goosebumps on goosebumps.
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When I left the exhibition it was pouring and I got a jolt peering out from my raincoat’s hood and seeing Boxpark which I recognised from the last series of The Apprentice. It’s a pop-up mall made from containers and is much smarter than it sounds.
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A toadstool?
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Move closer and get a better look… I need to do some Googling still for this one. Why is the facade left there? Is it the long left remnant of a WW2 bombed building? A listed building which best feature has been kept? Google google google incoming.
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This is only a small collection of photos of what I noticed as I walked along to Brick Lane (my previous visit included here.)
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Are you around London this Sunday? Either way this street art’s employed very effectively to advertise an event and campaign for a cause. That (aquamarine?) blue is to die for…
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“I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date.”
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Nightmare in paint?
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Forget my crocheted owl, perhaps this should be my new gravatar????
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A wholesaler’s fabric warehouse, well I don’t mind if I do….
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They supply fabric to tailors. You can buy a metre upwards of anything, even if you’re not a business customer. It’s not seasonal, and I don’t wear kilts, but I was so drawn to the tartans. They felt so soft and came in a selection of pretty colours. There was one beauty with pinky purpley lines.
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I enjoy this kind of sign, it can give lots of clues to the history of an area. London street names can be very informative. Go and explore South London and you’ll soon figure out what was oringinally produced there.
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The photo before this was to my right with this view ahead. They just tickled me.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little photo tour.

My craft hiatus continues due to my very sore left elbow. It’s ok if I don’t do anything much with my left hand but that’s not too practical really as a leftie. It will settle, with some help, but hasn’t been this bad for about 10 years. I’m pretty sure it’s kneading dough while I make our weekly bread that’s done for it. Boo. I’m now only using my mixer’s dough hook which isn’t quite such a tactile or satisfyingly stress relieving exercise, I really like doing the knocking back and second short knead by hand.

I have been wondering if I should wrap up the blog until it’s better as it’s a craft focused blog with no craft, but then I look at BlogLovin and my fave craft bloggers are sharing: country walks, train trips, trips to the local market, their emerging Summer garden, a long lost and now found cake recipe and so I think FINE. Just relax; it’s your blog, write and show what you want. It’s diversification and I’ve always shared non-craft posts, there are just lots more of them right now.

How are you doing? Enjoying lovely Summer weather, like we have here today, or relaxing into Autumn and thinking of hot chocolate and winter wooly making?

Kaffe Fassett: A Life in Colour

Natasja of crochetime and I met yesterday at The Fashion and Textile Museum in South London to ogle Kaffe’s designs and use of colour. I used to be a huge fan of his tapestry (aka needlepoint) and have owned a copy of Glorious Needlepoint for a long time. Mum reminded me, over Sunday lunch, that she has several of Kaffe’s knitting books and heard him talk in the early 1990s.

It was great to see my favourite tapestry designs in 3D, especially the vegetable cushions. Radish anyone? Or perhaps you’d prefer a beetroot?

I know that many of you are not near London, or even in the UK (if you are then the exhibition is on till 29th June) and so here is a good selection of what I loved. If you like tapestry you’ll probably be swooning along with me.

Click on any image to view a larger version.

“Colour themes that run throughout his textile work include the historical hues from early-medieval and Renaissance decorative arts, traditional pairings of blue and white, and the rich inspiration of China, India and international travel. In 1992 Fassett visited India as part of a charity delegation to explore what handicraft might be produced there to sell in Britain to raise money. The experience was profound and sparked a shift in his use of colour.

‘India proved to me that colour is a vital ingredient in life.'”