Stowe at Christmas

On Sunday we went to Stowe, a National Trust property, to have a good walk, where we followed a Christmas trail. This was after listening to a mixture of traditional carols and modern Christmas music by Winslow concert band, in the courtyard. The mince pies were successfully avoided till nearer Christmas, go us! Impressive self control I think.

A long walk is always first (at least 5 miles and you should try to get quite hot and out of breath marching up any hills*) which then earns a visit to the cafe for drinks, a ham salad sandwich and a bag of crisps. A mooch around the main shop, and this time the Christmas craft stalls, only at the end. That’s the usual order of the day at a National Trust property. Do you do the same?

The scale and beauty of Stowe have attracted visitors for over 300 years. Picture-perfect views, winding paths, lakeside walks and temples create a timeless landscape, reflecting the changing seasons. Full of hidden meaning, the gardens were created as an earthly paradise and still cast their spell today. Your visit starts at the New Inn visitor centre outside the gardens. This fusion of modern and restored eighteenth-century buildings was where visitors of the past were welcomed to Stowe.

(From The NT app)

A glimpse of Stowe House as we began our walk. It is now a private boarding school. The pupils were out and playing fun games outside in one area by the Queen’s Temple.

I didn’t photograph everything we saw, but these give you a flavour of the Christmas Trail and just a very few of the many landmarks you see as you walk around the Capability Brown designed parkland.

The Palladian bridge

Look beyond the iron railings and this was once the drive which led to the house.

This is the other side of the Palladian Bridge, once you’ve walked through it. The wellies were amusingly titled ‘Step into Christmas’ and a label describes how the head Gardener Barry is going to do a long walk from here to Bath to raise funds for Stowe in the New Year.

It always fascinates me that you can rent the Gothic Temple as a holiday let. What a spooky place it would be at night.

MK Jets

Milton Keynes Jets junior embroidery and textile students have created tapestry decorations using the colours of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in honour of the centenary of the first women getting the right to vote in 1918. They also represent the threads that bind communities together. From the textile industry to sewing for pleasure, the desire to stitch and create is woven through the fabric of time.

The grotto. Look at the pebbled floor, it must have been done by hand.

You enter through dark, low and narrow tunnels and I’m not sure that Someone thought there was anything much on the other side, so when we entered into the main room with a high roof, the fountain trickling with beautifully clean water and the arch looking out I heard him say “Ohh!” It is a bit special, I felt a magical vibe.

What you can’t see is that in cracks and crevices of the walls were laid little red baubles and greenery.

Men in Sheds were originally set up by Age Concern and the local group have made two xylophones for Stowe. They are, as you can see, things of natural beauty. Plus they sound good too. I swear I inadvertently played a Christmas carol really well, but this wasn’t universally acknowledged – #bahhumbug – and now I can’t even remember which one. It’s a secret me and the robin will share.

*I realise that I sound a little like a Sergeant major in the army! It is actually good fun and you feel very energised afterwards.

The Colourful World of Kaffe Fassett – The American Museum, Bath (part 2)

 

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The pics above and below is the flooring of the green room, very cleverly, and expensively according to one of the curators, created for the exhibition.

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20140410-160156.jpgOh dear you can really tell that this was a windowless room, despite my clicking the ‘enhance’ photo button. But isn’t this a stunning display? After leaving this part of the exhibition I really felt as if I had spent time in a garden. There seems to be something incredibly refreshing about being surrounded so many shades of green. It’s strange but I’ve never chosen to wear green ever; if you asked me pre-2011 I would always have said it was my least favourite colour. Since I learnt to crochet in 2011 I’ve found myself inexplicably drawn to green. It’s really odd. At times after reading about those who’ve had strokes and discovered they now love eating vegetables that they previously couldn’t bear, I wonder if I’ve experienced a small one which changed my colour perception and tastes. This is not meant to be disrespectful or flippant, I am completely (if oddly) serious.

There is going to have to be a part 3 about the exhibition. I took so many photos. I don’t look back at my blog much at all, it’s very much of the moment and I move on to the next thing, but the two posts I’ve revisited fairly frequently, when I want a jolt of inspiration, are my visit to The Fashion and Textile Museum last June to see Kaffe Fassett: A Life in Colour and last year’s Spring Knitting and Stitching Show.

I’ll leave you with some of my favourite quotes from Kaffe’s publications from a display at the exhibition:

 ‘Working with colour is not an intellectual game. You should see what the heart feels, that way you will stumble across more and more personal excitement in your work.’ Glorious Inspiration (1991)

‘The main thing is to have a go at trying 0ut colours, the wilder the better. None of us designers really know what works until we see it, so sampling becomes wonderfully exciting as you stumble on really unpredictable and interesting colouring.’ Pattern Library (2003)

‘My first lesson about design – when in doubt, try it!’ Glorious Knitting (1985)

‘Since I was such a freak – a six-foot-three Californian man who was knitting – I got a lot of attention from the press.’ Dreaming in Colour (2012)

‘Purple or red cabbages are fabulous objects, with deep, mysterious colours. I once heard of a garden planted with rows of purple cabbages and lined with chunks of black coal – how elegant it must have been!’ Glorious Needlepoint (1987)

The Colourful World of Kaffe Fassett – The American Museum, Bath (part 1)

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I’ve long been an admirer of Kaffe Fassett’s work since the 1980s when Mum introduced me to some of his books. The colour! The tapestry vegetable cushions! The knitting! The handsome man with the cheeky twinkling eyes! (I had rather a crush on KF.) I’d loved visiting his exhibition A Life in Colour last June in London and couldn’t wait to see more.

Well as you can see I had a fantastic visit to The American Museum in Bath yesterday. There’s been such a buzz about the exhibition online and in craft magazines that I just had to go SOON, although it’s on until 2nd November. I loved reading Kaffe’s take on the display. The exhibition’s housed in a separate building from the main museum, which has existed for 50 years in the renovated Claverton Manor. The American Museum is worth visiting simply for the grounds alone. If you want to sit, or walk, in warm Spring sunshine while enjoying a view of verdant rolling hills and stunning English countryside this is the place for you.

While driving to Bath I fleetingly wondered if I should keep my iphone firmly in my bag and simply look, exclaim and take it all in. But, during days out like this, I just think how much you’ll, probably, enjoy seeing such an explosion of colour, design and inspiration. Especially if you’re the other side of the world and unlikely to be able to visit. I experience a very strong urge to share. There are many, many items exhibited and I’ve shared just a selection of my favourites. The last photo is not great (there wasn’t a huge amount of natural light in the building, which you’ve no doubt gathered and flash photography is a no-no) but I’ve put it in as a cheeky hint of amazing things to come. Really. The exhibition was grouped into areas by colour and I’ve saved my favourite until last. I arrived just after noon; only twenty minutes into opening so was lucky enough to see the green room alone for some minutes. Bliss.

More to come tomorrow….

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.'”

Inspirational

On bank holiday Monday, last week, we visited Winchester. “You mustn’t visit Winchester without going to the cathedral” we were told.

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It’s a truly magnificent building. I can’t even begin to describe its size and features, it’s immense. The Cathedral website is really informative if you want to take a look.

Many people will have visited the Cathedral simply to pay a visit to the last resting place of Jane Austin.

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Interestingly it wasn’t until many years after she was buried that the number of people visiting her grave were noted, as her work gained popularity.

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These lilies were heavenly scented, I love them.

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I really like the Antony Gormley sculpture ‘Sound II’ in the Cathedral crypt.

However it was the tapestry work that really, really, caught my eye, as you shall see. I used to enjoy tapestry, but when my elbow was very painful I gave it up. Plus it was far from cool to be making tapestry cushions. Now I wish I had just taken extra painkillers, had a treble G&T and stuck my fingers up to cool. I bought most of my materials from Liberty of London, they used to have a wide selection of wool, canvas, kits and materials. They really have scaled back the selection but you can still find some nice choices. There was a postal ordering service I used to buy from also, which will now have a website but I just need to remember the company’s name…

What follows are many, many (I seem to be in a repeating the-same-word-twice-mode today, sorry. I can control this mode and hit the delete button, but choose not to, just in case you’re wondering if there’s a compulsive issue going on here) photos of tapestry work. Some are faded from use, sunlight and age, others are newer. I find all beautiful and inspirational.

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Inspirational colours, designs and because of the amount of hours that they took to create.

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Fuzzy, but I don’t want to delete the above. Partly close your eyes and squint to focus?

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A windmill and what I think is a plough, surrounded by the fruit of the land?

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I would also have stitched my initials & the year on the back too!

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When we bought our entry tickets we were told they are also season tickets, so we’re planning to go back to take a tour and find out more about the history, carvings, art, sculpture etc etc of this incredible building. I have a feeling that all photographing devices will be taken from me prior to the tour; I was a long time sighing over and photographing these beauties!

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I’ve always been a huge fan of Kaffe Fassett, particularly when I was first interested in tapestry. I’m going to A Life in Colour, an exhibition celebrating Kaffe’s work, with Natasja of the CrocheTime blog. I can’t wait!