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50 A random ten, again

1. I'm slowly building a collection of images of things with numbers on. But I shot this old Ford Prefect because of its colour and because of all that chrome. The ten was a bonus.

2. I seem to be hooked on grungy digital filters at the moment. You'll tell me if it's overkill, won't you?

3. Both the parish church in this village and the parish church in the village just across the river had their bells - numbering six and eight respectively - restored to celebrate the millennium. Sometimes on a Sunday morning the two tower captains play a call and response game. First one tower rings out, a peal involving every bell, and then the other, again and again, until both teams of ringers are exhausted, when they retire to the pub. It is glorious. And best listened to though an open window from the comfort of the cosy bed you've retreated to with the Sunday papers and a mug of good coffee.

4. We're not a family of church goers. Never have been. My grandfather set the trend. He spent Sundays in his garden, his "cathedral under the sky". Digging, planting, harvesting, or just pottering in his potting shed, not one of those things was work to him. 'God didn't give us two hands so we could sit on them', he would say.

5. I've been ranting a good bit lately, about wasted fruit. This place I call home has been peopled since the bronze age. In medieval times it was a small town of some importance, its significance and size only declining in the 1700s. Today it is a backwater village of barely 1000 people and - if you were to count every hedgerow damson, bullace, or wild plum, every garden or orchard apple or pear - perhaps 500 fruit trees. It has always been known for its fruit. Yet hardly anyone picks the stuff now. If ever a place needed a harvest share scheme we do.

6. I've also been ranting about the fashion for home made elderflower cordials and such - The Simple Things and your ilk, I blame you - because it seems to have escaped some of the folk who descend on our elder trees - we've a lot of those too - that if you entirely strip them of blossom in the spring there will be no fruit come the autumn. Grrr! All things in moderation, that's all I ask.

7. I have never so much as entered a branch of Primark. My daughters tell me this is highly unusual. I'm thinking you might tell me otherwise?

8. I can perfectly mimic Ivor the Engine. My daughters tell me that this is unusually embarrassing. (For those who have no idea what I'm talking about ... Ivor running).

9. My Mastermind subject would be Oliver Postgate and Smallfilms ... Ivor the Engine, Pogles' Wood, The Clangers ... the man was a genius. What would yours be I wonder?

10. I've been struggling to keep up with responding to your comments lately - commenting on your blog if you have one, emailing you if you don't - so finally, a thank you ... because I really do read and appreciate every word you write here, even if it doesn't always look like it.

Want to play along? Leave me a comment telling me a random thing or two about you. Or, if you're a blogger, why not post your own list of ten.


24 The Colour Collaborative: September: Stitched

Sir George Clausen, RA, 'An Old Woodman', charcoal drawing c. 1885

Smock frocks, of the traditional agricultural variety ... in every shade of undyed and unbleached homespun linen, grey, a brownish twilled fabric known as 'drabette', and white for Sundays*. Almost invariably stitched with white or unbleached thread. Quintessentially English, yet also Welsh. Carriers of folk embroidery. Folk art.

Historically the smock frock was a utilitarian over-garment, fashioned from rectangular pieces of cloth that were gathered both to control fullness and to add strength. The gathers - known as tubing, a reference to their individual shape - are not thought to have been decoratively stitched before the later eighteenth century but became ever more so during the nineteenth. And the 'box' panels, to either side of the gathers, were also increasingly elaborately embroidered, as were the shoulder pieces and the oversized collars that provided some protection from the weather**.

For many a Victorian painter or poet, nostalgic for England's rural past, the smock frock was emblematic of the bucolic country life ... in consequence museum costume collections include a good number of them. But these are generally the finest examples, carefully preserved, not the well worn and split along the stitching, everyday variety seen in Sir George Clausen's charcoal drawing of an old Berkshire woodman, above (c. 1885). His smock would appear to be of the round, reversible type, which had a small opening at the neckline, identical stitching to both front and back, and pockets set across or vertically to the side seams. Shirt smocks, on the other hand, had a buttoned opening extending no further than the waist, and coat smocks a buttoned opening running from neck to hem. Making a smock was labour intensive, could demand considerable expertise, and was almost entirely the province of women.

Fabric colour might vary by county - see footnote* - but variations in embroidery generally reflected occupation. A man's smock frock advertised his trade, with shepherds' smocks decorated with crook, hurdle, and sheep pen motifs; waggoners' with cartwheels, whip lashes, reins, and bits; ploughmens' with furrows; and woodmens' with leaves. A gravediggers smock apparently bore crosses. All of which was handy at hiring fairs, or so the story goes.

Entire books have been written about smock frocks, but because I'm most concerned with their colour that's quite enough words, you need more pictures ... take a look at my Pinterest board.

* Blue 'Newark' smocks were also popular among farm workers in Lincolnshire and the Midlands, and among shepherds everywhere; olive green smocks were favoured in East Anglia; and black smocks stitched with white were unique to the Isle of Man and Surrey.

** Smocking creates a dense fabric full of small air pockets which act as insulation. Some workers smocks would also have been oiled.

Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below ...

Sandra at Cherry Heart       Gillian at Tales from a Happy House

CJ at Above the River       Jennifer at Thistlebear     

What is The Colour Collaborative?
All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.


40 Wobbles

Old copper saucepans and jellies moulds on kitchen shelves, Penhryn Castle.

A grungy pic of some copper pans and jelly moulds ... I may tweak it a little more yet. This would seem to be what I do now, make pictures. What I'm not doing is knitting. I tried - ignoring my doc's 'avoid like the plague, indefinitely' instructions - and I failed, managing a mere forty stitches before the pain kicked in. Honestly, I'm a danger to myself.

So, I won't be going to Yarndale (sob) - will you be there? - but I do have a date with a chap who's going to talk me through the niceties of getting my images printed. And if that works out I'll surely have some to give away. Ages ago I mentioned I'd soon be celebrating one million page views, and then I promptly forgot about it. Meanwhile the page view counter ticked over to 1,000,001 three months back, and is well past that number now ... it's time I honoured my promise methinks.

What else am I up to? A spot of jelly making! I recently came by a copy of Peter Brears Jellies and Their Moulds and it has proved to be an absolute delight. It's a proper food history book, but with recipes ... just my kind of read. It deserves a wobbly post of its own, and soon!

I'm also reading Byron Roger's The Last Englishman: The Life of J.L. Carr (an author perhaps best known for his novel A Month in the Country). Rogers quotes John Burden on Carr: "You never knew what he'd take up next or what his attitude to it would be". I think I'd be flattered if someone said that about me. And with so much set aside while, in its own sweet time, my shoulder heals - the recently revisited tapestry weaving has also suffered that fate - I need to 'take up' something new if I'm to stay sane. Any suggestions?

Thank you for your all your lovely comments on my last post ... it's good to know there are plenty of other dreamers out there.

Linking with Laura's The Year in Books.
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