Making rush baskets

mat

I have always loved baskets of all kinds and have quite a little collection picked up on various trips to the Far East, South Africa and Scandinavia. I like them made in various materials, but on balance probably prefer them made of natural materials.

One of the materials I’ve always found fascinating is rush. I love that it is local (well, -ish, Herne Hill is not know for its streams and waterways) and that it is part of an ancient craft and knowledge. I spent some significant time chasing down somewhere to buy rush mats for our summerhouse (www.penthreath-hall.co.uk, in case you are interested) and love the description in one of the Laura books of how her mother makes rush (or is it straw) hats.

I’ve always fancied learning how to create baskets myself and so when I saw that City Lit had a course on making rush baskets I was naturally keen to apply – particularly now I’ve got the time. I’ve done two days of a 5 day course and I LOVE it! The first Friday we made a round basket and today we made a cylindrical basket. I also started a plat to make a square-ish tray for pens etc on my table.

Ordering seeds

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Image source Higgledy Garden.

Now Christmas is over I can hardly wait for the gardening season to start. I have a small London garden with a small greenhouse and an allotment. My seed-buying has mainly been for the allotment though Sarah Raven’s website has had some business from me for the house. I’ve particularly been ordering seeds for a cutting garden section of my allotment. This year I’ve found Chiltern Seeds and Higgledy Garden particularly useful. Both are new to me and had some unusual seeds that I was interested in. Particularly Higgledy Garden had a fabulous and inspiring website. I ordered lots of seeds to add to my cutting garden sections – I’ve had Dahlias, Chrystanthemums and marigolds for a couple of years and have cut bunch after bunch after bunch for the house so I now want to expand my cutting garden. I ordered Sweet William ‘Alba’, Rudbeckia ‘Marmelade’, Hesperis White, Fewerfew and Aster ‘Ostrich Plume’. All new to me, some of them biannuals, which I’ve not yet tried, so it will be an interesting experiment. I also got some Phacelia seeds included in the package, such a nice touch!

Weaving equipment

I’ve finally gotten a warping frame (warping board in America). This is the only piece of weaving equipment I’ve had to buy so far, everything I’ve got related to weaving so far has been free including my John Maxwell floor loom and all the equipment. Usually when you buy or get a loom secondhand all the peripheral equipment is included. Because I got my loom from an adult education centre where they didn’t have space for it (but were continuing teaching weaving) I didn’t get anything other than the loom (but I did get that for free which was amazing). Then my mother got me a whole stash of equipment (as well as a ton of yard, almost literally) from an adult education centre near her which was ceasing to teach weaving. But in all that there’s not been a warping board, so finally I went to buy one from the Handweavers Studio. And now I’ve put it together and can start weaving for real!Featured image

How does my garden grow

…..not too badly, actually. Despite a pretty chilly May it is lush and green though I imagine the tomatoes are very happy that they are in the warmer, sheltered greenhouse! The allotment is not doing as well, either the snails are getting to the beans before I get to see them or the seeds are not germinating due to the cold. Well, upwards and onwards. I can sow some more seeds and in the meantime enjoy this corner of the garden which has happily come together in the last year or so. In the middle of the table is the sculpture I bought at Dulwich Open Houses. I think it looks just right there.

A whitsun weekend away

Over the bank holiday, which happened to be Whitsun, I went away with my mum and sister to Helenekilde Badehotel in Tisvildeleje on the north coast of Sealand in Denmark. It was a birthday present to my mum and we’d had the reservation for over a year, it is that busy there. We were particularly lucky with the weather the first day, where I managed to get a bit of tan and we took full advantage of the lovely terrace below!

Helenekilde Beach Hotel

Viewed

Tidying using the KonMari method

I’ve been reading ‘The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying up’ by Marie Kondo. I’m naturally quite tidy and take pleasure in organising and ordering my possessions. I am clearly not Marie’s target audience but had heard quite a few comments on it in blogland so thought I’d take a look for myself. Suffice to say that I did follow Marie’s advise to throw out the book if I didn’t feel that I’ll return to it. Amongst a number of reservations I had was her seeming support of the ‘buy and throw away’ culture where ‘good’ was measured in how many bags of possessions you threw away.

However, I did pick up 3 good tips that I’ve implemented or feel certain I will implement when the time is right:

  1. Put everything of a similar nature in a big pile and sort it once and for all. So, for instance, if you are tidying your shoes, don’t just tidy the ones in the hall, then in the cupboard etc but put them in a big pile and sort ALL shoes at the same time. This way you’ll realise exactly what you have and can decide to keep and store only what you truly need.
  2. Store your foldable garments vertically rather than horizontally. What a revelation! I can now see what I have and the clothes don’t appear to get creased any more than when stacked horizontally.
  3. Throw away paperwork that you don’t absolutely need to keep. For instance, once you have checked your bank statement, throw it away rather than filing and storing it. Absolutely, I’ve got files and files of documentation I never refer to, never will, so out some of it will go at my next tidying session.

My drawer now looks like this:

 

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Buying at auction

I’ve just bought this picture at auction. It is clearly not modern and fashionable but I love it; the colours, the composition of the picture, everything about a bunch of flowers put together from what’s available in the garden. I’ve not yet picked it up, I bought it sight-unseen which is always a bit of a gamble. So far, I’ve picked more winners than loosers. Pictures such as these sell, at least in Denmark, for pittance. It is not by a famous artist (though when I googled him, quite a few of his pictures came up, so not a total amateur) called Finn Andersen and flower pictures such as these are not exactly hot property in Denmark. Doesn’t matter to me – it’s for our house in London and it will fit in very well I think.

Visiting artists

Yesterday a friend and I visited some of the artists who were part of ‘Artists’ Open House‘ in my local area. This is a yearly event that takes place over two weekends in May and I’ve been going for the last 6 or 7 years. There are about 170 artists taking place so you’d be stretched to visit them all in the 4 day the event takes place not to speak of a single day so I tend to concentrate on a specific area and explore the artists in and around that area. The definition of ‘artists’ who participate is broad anyway, there are ceramicists, craft and design, painters, glass, illustration, interiors, photography, jewelry, sculpture and textiles.

I go as much to see the interiors of peoples houses and gardens as to see their art – and this year we saw some particularly amazing gardens –  but always end up buying some unique and fabulous items. This year, my friend and I concentrated on a small area of East Dulwich and Dulwich village and particularly liked the paintings of Greg Becker, though I didn’t buy any, and the ceramic hand built pots and ‘pebbles’ of Jane Henderson. I managed to buy two of her things (she’d practically sold out by the time I arrived Saturday afternoon) – an egg shaped pot with a white engobe band and an egg-shaped stoneware pebble sculpture with iron oxide and porcelain inlay. I had to leave them to the end of the exhibition, so haven’t finally placed them in the garden, but I think they will look fab!

My friend and I also really liked Sally Nencini’s knitted things. I bought some lovely knitted cushions and my friend fell in love with a pouffe which somebody else had reserved. The seller was getting a bit nervous about whether it would be picked up so on the off-chance we left my phone number there so we could be contacted should the sale fall through. Lo and behold, the next morning I got a text that we could pick it up if we wanted. Now the pouffe is waiting for our next trip back to Denmark so it can get reunited with its rightful owner. It’s always fun to have items with a story attached! Another thing my friend bought was a wool cushion made at the National Theatre’s costume department with some left-over dye from a play that my friend and I had seen together (one of the James’ plays, starring Sofie Graaboel). So a double-memory is attached to this cushion.

A spring dish

April showers are certainly visiting us in May – this morning I woke up at 6 am because it was raining so hard on our dormer windows. Nonetheless the herbs are flourishing in our raised kitchen bed and the lovage is shooting up! I love, love, love lovage but in this garden for some reason it goes slightly ‘off’ later in the summer – a sort of disease (?) makes it practically disappear by August, I don’t remember my mother’s lovage doing that. So, only two things for it – eat as much as possible while it is still young and vigorous and pick and freeze the leaves so that there’s always some to hand for putting in the water when boiling potatoes.

It is not often you find recipe suggestions for lovage so I was thrilled when I spotted  this recipe for lovage and pork from krydderuglen’s blog. and made it tonight. Apparently it is one of her sons’ favourite dishes and it certainly went down a treat with everyone in my family. My only addition would to specify that you might want to use half and half double-cream and milk, otherwise the sauce does get very thick (but yummy!!). I served this with potatos and a salad.

Lovage and pork

Serves 4

1 pork tenderloin cut into medallions
200 ml lovage or more, chopped
ground chilli, not too much
salt
cream

Sprinkle the meat with lovage and chilli and let steep for 10-15 minutes.  Fry until golden, season with salt and add cream. Let the cream reduce for 3-5 minutes, until bubbling.

Sewing Sunday

I am very lucky that 3 of my friends share my passion for sewing and crafting and we get together once a month for an evening of crafting. Tea and cake mandatory, craft project optional, though some of us are always crafting, all of us chatting about events big and small.  It’s a monthly event I treasure. However, we always do it in the evening and somehow doing a sewing project takes more concentration than a knitting/crocheting/embroidery project so we decided to set up Sewing Sunday to try to get time and space in the diary to do some more sewing projects. Today was the first one. Emma obligingly sent away her husband and child and baked a cake and the rest of us turned up with sewing machines and patterns in tow.

It always amazes me how much prep there is to sewing and that the actual sewing is sometimes the smallest part of a project. So today I managed to put together a pattern for a top for Karoline and cut out the fabric for a reversible sun hat. Both projects, incidentally, from Oliver + S. The hat will be made from two small pieces of Danish vintage fabric that I bought quite a while ago and they’ve been waiting to be used in the right project. That was all I managed to do in 2 1/2 hours! Anyway, now I’m well underway on both projects and know I’ll be able to push through.