Friday, 28 April 2017

I'm Not Twiddling My Thumbs

On Wednesday evening I got home from the Alpha Group at Church and sat down with a cup of tea and checked out facebook [9.40pm]. A member of one group I am in had just put out an urgent request for a Twiddlemuff for her Mum. So I replied I could make one for her.
If you aren't aware of these, they are simple knitted muffs for people with dementia - they keep their hands warm... and more importantly, keep their fingers occupied. Often dementia sufferers pick at things, pluck their clothes, pull their hair etc, and these muffs really help with that. They can pull and pluck and play with the beds and ribbons, stroke the soft yarns, and the muffs seem to help calm them. I located the pattern [The Knit For Peace Twiddlemuff Pattern] and went upstairs for yarn and needles. KFP is a great site!
"Are you making another Snufflebag thing?" said Bob [who couldn't quite remember the name] I explained, and he kindly made me more tea.
I knitted the basic rectangle [it needs to be about 12" x 24"] and then went to bed around midnight.I used some chunky yarn, some DK [two strands at a time] and some 'eyelash' yarn [with a strand of DK alongside] on 7.5mm needles, mostly in stocking stitch. It knits up really quickly.Once or twice I varied the pattern, doing a few rows in reverse and I also did a row of eyelets 
On Thursday morning, I  blocked it out on my ironing board and pressed it.
An assortment of buttons, beads and bits of ribbon were pinned, and then sewn in place. I threaded some trim through the eyelets but also tied ribbon knots there. It is really important to tug firmly on each embellishment, you do not want things to come adrift in the owner's hands.
I left long tails on the sewing threads and wove them through the stitches on the back - that anchors them well - trimming them too short might cause stitching to come adrift. Once everything was sewn down, the rectangle was folded in half to make a square, and the three open edges sewn up. Then that was folded into a tube.
Here is the front and back of the inside and the outside. The buttons and beads varied in size and shape - and my ribbons were smooth satin, soft velvet, cotton twill and knobbly trim.
Mixing the yarns and the stitches added to the colours and textures too. I was able to get it into the post on Thursday afternoon. 
If you have never made one of these, do have a go - it is a great way to use up your stash, and costs nothing but a few hours of your time. Many care homes and hospitals are pleased to accept them [check out Knit For Peace for information]

Thursday, 27 April 2017

An Apple A Day...

I buy British apples whenever I can. I am concerned that so many of our native varieties are being sidelined. I miss the lovely James Grieve which grew in our garden in Bexleyheath. Its fruit began as cookers and ripened into dessert apples. One of the Antipodean fruits overtaking our produce is the Pink Lady 
You can read all about this apple and its history here. The producers are very particular about quality, and will not allow British growers to cultivate it, because they fear our climate is not good enough to produce consistency of flavour. 
But whilst I ignore them in the supermarket, I am impressed by the annual competition which is sponsored by Pink Lady Apples, to find the Food Photographer of the Year. 
The 2017 competition has just ended. The standard has been high, the entries stunning. Full details here but I have selected just a few for the blog. 

One of the pictures above is the overall winner, the rest are some of the finalists. Which is your favourite? 

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

No Thanks For The Memory

Now here is my contender for April's Pointless Gadget Of The Month - I saw one of these a couple of weeks ago in a Dorset Poundshop, and wondered about it's purpose. Now I discover that more august 'home' stores like Dunelm and M&S [and the humbler Wilko] sell them. It is the Memory Foam Bathmat
Don't get me wrong - I love a good bathmat. It is important when I step out of the bath that my feet land on a non slip surface, and I like something both warm and washable. 
But what confuses me is why use memory foam??
As I understand it, this excellent product has many uses, because it is warm, and soft, and retains the shape of that which is pressed into it.
I can see why such a thing is useful in these situations...

  • pillows, to support your head and neck and aid restful sleep
  • mattresses, for helping your spine and limbs to be comfortable
  • wheelchair and armchair cushions, for those with restricted mobility, to prevent pressure sores
  • insoles for your shoes, to help with pressure points, fallen arches etc
  • bra cups, to give comfort and uplift to small or sagging boobs
  • earplugs, which will conform well to the ear-hole and fit efficiently.
I have read the articles  about the amazing properties of this stuff [such as creep and hysteresis] I get all that - but I still don't understand why you want memory foam in a bath mat
  • I am only standing on the mat briefly to dry myself after the bath, not lying on it all night
  • I lift my feet up and down to dry them anyway, and may not replace them in exactly the same position, especially if I turn towards the towel rail, or move to pull out the bath plug
  • my feet are size 5, Bob's are size 11 - do I have to step into his footprints? [like Good King Wenceslaus' Page]
  • I step into the bath facing inwards - but climb out facing outwards - what's the point of the bathmat remembering my footprint?
M&S currently offer 77 different bathroom mats, in 24 colours - and their MF one [white or grey] is three times the cost of their basic range [7 colours] and has no matching pedestal mat for the basin or loo [if you want such things]. 
I just do not understand why you would buy one. 

Am I missing something really obvious here? 
If so, please enlighten me!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Dolly Mixture

Barbie has been around nearly 60 years. This leggy, busty blonde has inhabited the bedrooms of many children in that time. I never had one, but both my two acquired them. I am not sure how, as I was never able to reconcile her with my feminist feelings! But she remains popular, and my holiday relaxation craft this week has been producing clothes for another young friend, to dress her Barbie, and indulge in make-believe.

A couple of skirts, a dress,  two tops and some briefs. They all fasten at the back with narrow strips of Velcro.  
I had to buy the doll for 99p in  CS in Wymondham - originally I printed a free pattern from the Internet, cut out the red skirt, and thought "This looks way too small" 
It seemed sense to have a doll to use for fitting. I was able to modify the red skirt, but it is a little short. 
Barbie clothes are much more fiddly than the American Girl doll ones I've been making recently, but at least they only use tiny scraps of fabric. I found a diagram comparing Barbie's shape to the average American girl. 
Yep, totally unrealistic! 
Last year Mattel revealed their top secret Project Dawn, which introduced the new shape Barbies, in the hope of boosting their flagging sales. 

I am not sure how the petite, plump, dark-skinned etc Barbies have sold in the shops. American Girl Dolls, Elsa Dolls, and Bratz and others are selling very well. However, my young friend has some of the 'regular' shaped ones, so I'm confident she will enjoy these little extras for their wardrobe.
Did you have a Barbie, a Sindy or a Tressy? 
and did you [or your Mum or Gran] sew clothes for them?

Monday, 24 April 2017

We've Eaten In Eaton, And Wondered if Gormley Is Gormless

After Church yesterday, we drove in into Norwich. We had a lovely stroll through beautiful Eaton Park , getting on for a hundred years old now, but still bringing joy to Norwich families. In the centre is an amazing rotunda with a circular bandstand.
I stood in the centre and took photos in four directions [including one of Bob photographing me!]
In one of the four sections is a café. It is very hipster. Last year the Council put the running of the cafe out to tender and the Bicycle Shop in St Benedicts won the contract [nb the Bicycle Shop is also a café, doesnt sell bikes] We both opted for the Swannington Hot Dog with Mustard Mayo and Red Onion Jam.
Outside the café, there's a lilypond, and boating lake [for model boats] and further along, playing fields, a skate park, playgrounds, and other facilities. It is brilliant.  
We decided that the café staff were all students from Univeristy Of East Anglia. UEA is just around the corner and was our next destination.
I wanted to see the Anthony Gormley Statues about which there has been A Lot Of Fuss. They were officially unveiled last Friday.
UEA asked Sir A if he had any sculptures they could borrow. He happened to have 3 leftover from his piece "Another Time". You may recall he put up 100 figures on Crosby Beach, Merseyside [Another Place]
and then made 100 identical figures, most of which have been dispersed around the world, and together are entitled Another Time.
One of the UEA chaps, lifesize, is at the end of the walkway outside the library

We didn't see the third man, on the ziggurat residential block - but we did see the larger-than-life fellow on top of the Library.
This is the one people are upset about. Gormley says he is reflecting on life, staring at the distant horizon, and that's what University life is about - others have said he is deeply disturbing. He looks as if he is about to jump - clearly you don't want students stressed about exams and dissertations to be troubled by suicidal images.
I can understand their concerns - and when the Young Royals are busy working hard to raise awareness about Mental Health Issues, this does seem a little ill-advised.
UEA is a tribute to 1960s architecture, but the maturing trees have improved its appearance since the early days.
If you came round the corner and were confronted with this sight, what would you think ? "Oh, its modern art" or "Oh help, there's someone in despair" ??
The Bishop of Norwich has given a thoughtful response, but I suspect that in the end, UEA will bow to pressure and relocate the sculptures to somewhere a little less sensitive.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

It's Quasimodo Sunday!

Traditionally the Sunday after Easter is known as Low Sunday - generally assumed to be the feeling of anticlimax - coming back to the mundane, after the glorious heights of the Easter Resurrection Celebrations. For those Christians who had been dressed in white robes and baptised on Easter Sunday, it marked the end of a week of wearing white and being 'special' and becoming just 'ordinary' Christians. Here's St Augustine, all dressed up for his baptism, at the Easter Vigil AD387.
Or possibly it is a corruption of Laudes [one of the prayers begins Laudes Dominum - thank the Lord] 
But Low Sunday is the most commonly used name. It is also the feast day of St Thomas [a much maligned apostle, imho, I never did feel 'doubting Thomas' was an appropriate nickname]
It was believed to be Thomas who travelled eastwards as a missionary, to found the Christian Church in India.
But while I was researching the 'Low Sunday' origins, I discovered something else - that the other name is Quasimodo Sunday. 
How cool is that?
"Is it because preachers get the hump, because they are so tired after Easter?" muttered Bob when I bounced in and shared this discovery with him, just as he was having a snooze.
No it isn't - it is from the Latin phrase "Quasi modo geniti infantes, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite" - 1 Peter 2:2, "as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word". This is the sung introit for the day - and those first two words give the name...
And in Victor Hugo's novel, Archdeacon Frollo finds the abandoned hunchbacked baby on the Sunday after Easter, and that is why he is given the name Quasimodo. I rather like that explanation. And it is an encouragement to people not to be low as the Easter Holiday ends, but rather to seek to grow in their understanding of the Bible.

One final note - it does seem that there really was a Hunchback of Notre Dame who may have inspired Hugo's story. Check it out here.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Slopping About

The word slop has a number of meanings, and can be a noun or a verb. This holiday week has seen a lots of slop and slopping here in Norfolk
 1 - It can mean mud or slush, liquid splashed about
Here we see Bob and Jon slopping mortar on the wall, to repair and replace the flints which have come loose
2- It can mean thin drink or liquid food [often used in the plural, slops] again with the sense of spilling and splashing.
Here we see that Rosie understands this concept very well.
3 - Slopping about is almost synonymous with splashing around
Rosie went with Grandma and Grandad to the Toddler Splash Session at Dereham Leisure Centre. That was enormous fun. She wore her new swimming cozzie too.
But the final definition of slop is peculiar to Norfolk
4 - here they use the term slop to mean a fisherman's smock.
I have always wanted to possess a 'proper' smock**. In my teens [pre-Internet] I even got a book from the library and drew up a pattern to make myself one of these. But I never found the time or money to complete the project. The Norfolk slop has a round neck and two patch pockets and is made of heavy cotton drill [to withstand the wind and weather]
On Tuesday, my sharp eyed husband spotted one in a CS in Dereham. It is clearly old [the label in the neck has faded, and the company that made it is long out of business ] but I am not sure it has ever been worn.
Nowadays the Norfolk slops retail at £50-70. This cost me £4.
And it is so comfortable, and the correct size [i.e. generous enough to fit over another garment] The patch pockets hold a key, a hankie and a mobile phone...
I am extremely happy slopping about in it!
[** I also fancied making and owning an agricultural worker's smock too, but that's another story]