Sunday, 29 July 2018

Joe The Quilter

Joe the Quilter's Cottage, Beamish

Quilting has long been a traditional craft in the North East of England with the famous Durham or North Country Quilting.

I have a Durham quilt which I inherited from my mother in law after she died. Sadly I know nothing about who made it or when as she never showed it to me. I'll do a post about it once I manage to take some decent photographs of it. It's so large I haven't found a way to take them.

Beamish Museum has a lot of quilts and recently a new cottage has been built or rather re created honouring Joe the Quilter, a famous quilter in the North who was murdered in 1826.

Joe the Quilter's cottage was in Warden near Hexham in Northumberland and the team from Beamish researched the site and recreated the cottage in Beamish. 

I had a half an hour to spare last week when we were doing our quilting at Beamish so dashed across to take a look at the cottage. Apologies for the quality of the photographs. I hadn't realised that we would be visiting the cottage so didn't take my camera. I must get to grips with the camera on my phone one of these days. 

Musicians playing outside the cottage. Note the little puppet the fiddler was keeping going while he played. Multi tasking!

The interior was bigger than I expected but just a single room for living in!

Behind that wattle & daub wall was where Joe kept his chickens! 

Wonder where Joe kept his quilting frame as it would have been pretty big.

There was a small sample of Durham quilting in the window area. Main problem was getting a photo with all the other people doing the same thing. Tourists!

Outside the cottage was a notice letting people know they could take part in an investigation into the murder!

We took a quick look into the church (another building taken down & built up in Beamish). There were some quilts and some boards showing activities relating to the cottage & quilting.

Small pieces of blue & white pottery were found when the archaeological dig was done and they were copied here by a local textile designer and artist.

She then designed a lovely cotton fabric using her water colour print.

Also in the church was a locally created new quilt. Couldn't get the whole thing into a single photo.

 I particularly like this square of the little town of Alnmouth.

This isn't a very comprehensive representation of what it's really like at the cottage as I only had about 30 minutes to see it. 

There's a lovely video telling the whole story of Joe the Quilter's cottage here.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Durham Miners' Gala

North & South West Towers of Durham Cathedral

It's many years since I went to the Miners' Gala or rather the Big Meeting as we called it. I was just little and I remember my sister got lost amongst hundreds of people on the racecourse, she was 3 years old & I'm not sure we ever went back. However I do remember the procession leaving the the Miners' Institute with the brass band & the miners' banner every year and then going to watch them returning home with crowds following the band & the banner.

The event was a huge one in the life of the communities around the Durham coalfield celebrating their mining heritage and the miners' unions.  The colliery bands marched from the villages early in the morning arriving in the city where the streets were closed to traffic. They paraded in their thousands to the old racecourse where political speeches were made. Afterwards new banners were taken to the Cathedral to be blessed in a special service.

Today I went along as I was working at the Cathedral, it was the 134th Big Meeting and the atmosphere was amazing. The weather was fantastic and it was great listening to the brass bands playing as they waited to go down the the old racecourse to hear the political speeches. 
Sorry my photos are not brilliant had to take them with a phone on the hoof as I wound my way through the crowds on the paths up to the Cathedral. They were taken at 9.30am as the banners and bands were assembling with the banners and waiting to march to the old racecourse.

 Unison (my union)

Thousands more came to the old racecourse there despite the fact that there are now no deep mines in Durham due to closure by the Thatcher government in the 'eighties. There's no racecourse now either but that wasn't her fault!

You can guess there were lots of things on the agenda today when Jeremy Corbyn the Labour leader spoke, education, the NHS, the importance of trade unions and yes Trump! I'm not a great Corbyn fan but I agree with what he said today, he reminded people that nobody gave us the right to vote or to be discriminated against. We had to fight for these things and the unions played a big part. 
It's a hundred years since women (over 30) were given the right to vote!
Politics over!!!

I was on duty at the Cathedral this morning for tours of the North West Tower which you can see here in the photo above. Note the colour of the grass, yellow in contrast to the older photo at the top as we have had no rain for weeks now. It looks like sand.

The flowers are struggling to survive too in this heat.

After the tours were over I decided to stay for the service for the first time and it was wonderful. There were five new banners being blessed by the Bishop of Durham and were brought in with their local bands. Four were brass bands with lots of children in them and the fifth was a pipe band (which I'm not a great fan of) however it was great. The sound totally filled the Cathedral and the acoustics were absolutely wonderful.

The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler gave a wonderful sermon reminding us that the days of terrible conditions working in mines are still with us. Apparently in the Democratic Republic of Congo child labour is used to mine cobalt, the mineral used in our mobile phone, laptop & electric batteries in cars. You can see more here in this CNN report. What a nightmare for these children & all for our lifestyle!

It was quite an emotional service as many present remembered their husbands, fathers, grandfathers, uncles and brothers who had worked in the mines. All my male relations worked at Dawdon Pit a huge mine which had a massive output of coal. Both my granddad's & my husband's dad died due to pneumoconiosis. My Dad, all my uncles & my brother worked there as there were no other jobs to have in the town. Once the mines closed the effects were terrible, whole communities were devastated as there were so few jobs available.

It was great to see that community spirit is still thriving in these places and thousands turned up today to celebrate the Big Meeting. The atmosphere as I said was great as I walked back down from the Cathedral into the city the brass bands were still playing around the streets and some people were dancing to Is This the Way to Amarillo?   Such fun!!!!!

The police were in great humour too chatting to everybody & apparently there were only two arrests of local men who were drunk & disorderly! 

Roll on 2019 & the 135th Big Meeting.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Happy Birthday NHS!

Have to say Happy Birthday to the NHS which is 70 today.

I must admit that I think the NHS is the best thing any government ever did for its people. To be able to receive treatment without having to worry about the cost was so vital after the war. I can remember my Mam talking about how hard it was to pay for to see a doctor. Like lots of families we were quite poor, my Dad became a miner after the war when he left the Royal Navy & there was no money to spare. The NHS was a godsend to people like us.

What a fantastic & brave government that was giving people the right to health & social care benefits and despite many problems, thankfully we still have it today. Many people take it for granted especially the younger ones who don't know what life was like for people before the NHS.

If anyone is a fan of "Call the Midwife" they'll know what a difference it made to people's lives.

There's a lovely picture timeline here on the BBC.

Nice one NHS, hope you have many more birthdays to come.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

My Singer 338!

Well here it is my very first sewing machine, the one I got for my 21st birthday in 1966! I know it cost my Mam a lot to buy it for me & she traded in her Jones treadle to buy it. I wish I had offered to pay for to keep it but I suppose that's the thoughtlessness of youth.

I learned to sew from about 5 years old with my Nana's Jones treadle, my Mam had learned to sew on it too & so did my sister. In the days before telly we spent hours sewing & knitting together. I remembered watching with horror the time my Mam got the sewing machine needle through her finger nail! Don't know how it didn't put me off.

I decided I didn't want a gold watch for my 21st as most people did I preferred a sewing machine. I loved it! Such a gorgeous colour and my how it stitched! It could zig zag & embroider and it has made hundreds of things from my mini dresses, wedding & bridesmaids' dresses in the sixties, curtains, cushions, dresses & trousers for me & my children in the seventies & in the eighties I did a City & Guilds Fashion & Design 3 year course. My the machine got some hammer during that course.  

Apart from when the electric foot control broke the machine never flackered until I got it out about a year ago & discovered there was a screw missing from the stitch lever. Just a tiny screw but it stopped the stitch setting working properly although you could still sew with it.

Well I started a quilting class a couple of months ago & wondered whether I should treat myself to a new lightweight machine to carry to the classes as mine is quite heavy with the case on it.

Next I spent hours looking at reviews on the Internet (as you do) & it looked as though most of the cheaper ones weren't worth the money. I didn't want to spend too much on one so I looked into getting the part for the machine. Well that was another hunt that took hours! Although the machine was made in Scotland it's hard to find replacement parts in the UK. I found one on a website in the US but it was going to cost a heck of a lot just for a tiny part so I gave up. I thought about buying an old 338 just to get the part but they all looked in poor condition on ebay & they weren't cheap either. So I was back to square one.

I started looking at vintage sewing machine websites, by this time I was hooked on them, finding out more about them & how they were built to last unlike the pastic stuff being sold now. Well I found one UK website, it belongs to Helen Howes, a lady who is really into restoring these fabulous machines. Well she has some beauties which she has lovingly restored for sale here & I drooled over the Jones treadle machine I learned to sew on as well a most of the others here

So I started browsing the rest of the site & found she also has parts for sale. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the exact part I needed for the princely sum of £1! I rang her, she posted it to me & last night I fitted it & voila! It restored the machine to working order perfectly, now the stitch lever works like a dream. Hard to believe I could be so delighted, more delighted than if I had won the lottery. 

Can you believe a machine doesn't work properly, all for the sake of a tiny screw you can see here.

So now I can start quilting properly! The sewing saga continues & I think it will have to go into the box with me when I go. Hard to believe you can get so attached to something mechanical but I am, I love it probably because I know it cost my Mam a lot to buy it for me back then. Then I think of all the things I have made or repaired with it, such memories. I hope Mam knows it was been worth every penny!

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Snow in Venice?

When I think of Venice I tend to think of blue skies & sunshine, most times I've visited that's how it's been. 

Although I have been there when it has rained but it still looks beautiful under grey skies.

A rainbow over the lagoon looked really lovely.

My husband has never been to Venice so I booked a few days there for us later this month. However at the moment it's snowing there! St Mark's Square is covered apparently so the expensive coffee shops are empty and gondolas must be having a hard time. Who wants to freeze in a gondola!

Now photographs of Venice in the snow will be very interesting, I'd love to take some but I'm not sure my husband will appreciate more snow. We've had enough of it already this week!

I don't like breaking copyright & pasting photos that are not mine but there are some beauties of snow in Venice here 

Thursday, 22 February 2018


After I lost Oscar I didn't want to replace him for a long time but I do miss having a cat. 

My daughter was the same after her cat Zara had to be put to sleep. However she decided she would get two rescue kittens and here they are, Ginny the tortoiseshell & George the ginger tom.

Claire bought a sort of  tree house for them & below George is coiffuring his tail in the top section. The cushion needed to be covered so I made a cover & then crocheted another multi coloured one to go on top. George laid claim to the top of the tree!

It has a lower crescent shaped section & Ginny seemed to be relegated to it. I made a cotton cover but shrunk from doing a crochet one.

Eventually I gave in & made a crescent shaped one. Not exactly perfect, I had no pattern. 

As you can see below it was an instant success & was much appreciated by Ginny!

 Mostly I have been knitting & crocheting with the charity craft group. I like knitting these as they can be made so quickly & look so sweet.

It's hard to believe but this wool we have been using is really cheap and it's lovely quality. We've been getting it from Poundworld I think, I always get mixed up but I think Poundland do wool too. It's only £2 for 3 balls, amazing quality.

I'm still struggling on with the gansey I'm ashamed to say. I'm blaming the bad light as it's very difficult to knit navy wool in artificial light. I make too many mistakes! Also the fact I hate doing circular knitting. I'm on to the sleeves now & have had to abandon the circular needle & go for a set of aluminium couble pointed needles which I can manage a little better but I still don't like thid type of knitting. Would have been much quicker to just knit the pieces separately & have seams, I never mind sewing things up. Also you can hide the ends of the wool in seams much easier! 
Now the days are getting longer I'm going to have to do more or pardon the pun I'll miss the boat!

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Roy Orbison

When I was a teenager I had lots of lovely LPs with their beautiful covers and one of my favourite singers was Roy Orbison. I was lucky enough to see him a few times and probably the most memorable time was October 1963 at the City Hall in Newcastle when he appeared with the Beatles. We had bought the tickets to see Roy Orbison but by the time the concert came around the Beatles had risen to great fame.

I loved the Beatles & their performance was great, well what you could hear of it. The girls were screaming and jumping on their seats but still I enjoyed the experience.  However when Roy Orbison sang you could a pin drop. The audience just sat throughout his performance watching & listening. It was on that tour that he struck up the friendship with The Beatles which lasted & he eventually joined the Travelling Wilbury's with George Harrison.

Well I bought a Roy Orbison CD quite a long time ago which I have enjoyed but recently I haven't been listening to much music other than on the car radio. A few weeks before Christmas I was driving along listening to Radio 2 (I abandoned Radio 1 a long time ago, you do as you get older) and I heard Roy Orbison singing I Drove All Night but there was something different about the recording. The magnificent voice was the same but there was a longer orchestral introduction and the background music was much better than I remembered. It was from a new recording of Roy Orbison songs on a CD, A Love So Beautiful, produced with Roy Orbison's sons and featuring the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra. I remembered they had made a record last year with Elvis' songs which was really good. They've made a brilliant job of this one too with all my favourite songs. Strangely enough I Drove All Night wasn't one of my favourites but it is now.

So the CD was my Christmas present and a fantastic one it is too. The orchestra doesn't overpower the wonderful singing it just adds another layer to it and really enhances all the songs. I love it and I bet Roy Orbison would have too.

What I'm not so sure about is the holographic tour they are doing. I think it would be lovely to see him again performing with the orchestra but I'm not so sure how I would feel afterwards knowing it wasn't real. It's thirty years since he died and maybe it would be quite upsetting, almost like going back in time to when you were a teenager and then suddenly you're back to the present and ancient!

Joe The Quilter

Joe the Quilter's Cottage, Beamish Quilting has long been a traditional craft in the North East of England with the famous Du...