A Bustle & Sew Publication
Copyright © Bustle & Sew Limited 2022
The right of Helen Grimes to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form, or by any means, without the prior written permission of the author, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
Every effort has been made to ensure that all the information in this book is accurate. However, due to differing conditions, tools and individual skills, the publisher cannot be responsible for any injuries, losses and other damages that may result from the use of the information in this book.
First published 2022 by: Bustle & Sew Station House West Cranmore Shepton Mallet BA4 4QP www.bustleandsew.com
And so here we are again, with the first issue of 2023. The festive season is behind us now and, as the days grow slowly longer, we can begin to anticipate the arrival of spring, heralded at the end of this month, if the weather is mild, by the return of those bravest of flowers, snowdrops. We celebrate the snowdrop in our first pattern with a bowl full of these seemingly delicate, but actually hardy and robust blooms. This issue brings the last instalment of “A Stitcher’s Alphabet” and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed researching and putting it together - watch out for the book (with lots of extra content) coming very soon indeed. We also enjoy some warming soups and traditional English puddings in our kitchen section and learn about choosing and using colour too - most welcome at this time of year when there’s very little colour to be seen outside our windows.
I hope you enjoy this issue and the February Magazine will be published on Thursday 27 January. Until then I hope you have a lovely month with lots of time for stitching!
Very best wishes
January Almanac Page 5
A Bowl full of Snowdrops Hoop Page 8
It’s Snowdrop Season Page 11
A Stitcher’s Alphabet U-Z Page 12
Lovely Idea: Paper Rosette Wreath Page 17
Rose Hip Hand Warmer Page 18
Farewell to Christmas Page 22
Feed the Birds Page 24
Felt Fox Softie Page 26
Choosing and Using Colours Page 31
A (very) Little Look at Arpilleras Page 37
Sleepy Owl Pennant Page 39
In the Kitchen: Firelight and Frost Page 43
Henny Penny and Friends Page 55
A Fashion for Feathers Page 58
In the Bleak Midwinter Page 62
Poetry Corner Page 65
Homeward Bound Hoop Page 66 Epiphany Page 70
Embroidery Stitch Guide Page 71
In the Kitchen: Conversion Tables Page 72 Templates Page 73
Winteristhetimeforcomfort, forgoodfoodandwarmth, forthetouchofafriendlyhand andforatalkbesidethefire: itisthetimeforhome
Iliketothink That,longago, Therefelltoearth Someflakesofsnow Whichlovedthiscold, Greyworldofours Somuch,theystayed Assnowdropflowers.
One of the earliest signs of spring is the appearance of graceful snowdrop flowers, that carpet the floors of some of our deciduous woodlands. “Chaste snowdrop, harbinger of spring” wrote Wordsworth, though rejoicing that winter is over when you spot the very first snowdrops is, to say the least, a little hasty! Snowdrops begin their flowering season when the weather is still decidedly chilly - although they look delicate their leaf tips are tough enough to push up to the surface through frozen soil, which is how they gained their name of in France and Snow Piercers in parts of the UK.
A Snowdrop flower looks like three drops of milk hanging from a stem which gives the plant its Latin name Galanthus which means milk-white flowers. There are seventy five different species and varieties of snowdrops, which are all white - and that’s probably why only two species are commonly cultivated, though snowdrop enthusiasts, known as Galanthophiles cultivate large collections of different
types. A Snowdrop flower looks like three drops of milk hanging from a stem which gives the plant its Latin name Galanthus which means milk-white flowers.
A snowdrop walk is a wonderful way to enjoy the countryside in late January and early February when snowdrops are in full flower. Many country estates and gardens open at this time of year to host these events.
If there isn’t a snowdrop walk near you, then try wandering around your local churchyard as snowdrops and churches have an historical affinity. Many churchyards were planted with snowdrops so that there would be plenty of flowers available to decorate the church for Candlemas on 2 February to celebrate the feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary. It was traditional to leave Christmas greenery up until Candlemas when jugs and bowls of snowdrops would be brought inside to take its place.
Wherever you go to enjoy snowdrops this spring, don’t plan to bring any home with you. We all know we shouldn’t pick flowers in the wild, but many people also consider snowdrops are unlucky flowers to bring into our homes. This superstition arose in Victorian times when it was believed that the flower structure resembled a corpse wrapped in a shroud,
If you’re in the UK, then visit the National Trust websitetofinddetailsofsnowdropwalksnearwhere youare.
This is the term used to describe a fabric made with two different fibres - not blended into a single thread used throughout but rather using one fibre for the warp and another for the weft, as for example a silk warp and woollen weft or a linen warp and cotton weft.
The Ursulines are a Roman Catholic order of nuns. In 1639 in Quebec, Canada they began to teach needlework to girls using European floral patterns in native materials - quill, moosehair and buckskin. The order also taught embroidery in silk and cotton, beads and ribbonwork.
Since Anglo-Saxon times, the long dark midwinter nights have been brightened by the tradition of wassailing. The Wassailing celebrations generally take place on the Twelfth Night, 5th January, however the more traditional still insist in celebrating it on ‘Old Twelvey’, or the 17th January,the date that marked the end of the Christmas celebrations before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar.
The term “wassail” comes from the Anglo Saxon toast waes hael, meaning “be well” or “be in good health”, to which the fellow drinkers would reply drink hael, or “drink well”. Depending upon the area of the country where you lived, the wassail drink itself would generally consist of a warmed ale, wine or cider, blended with spices, honey and perhaps an egg or two, all served in one huge bowl and passed from one person to the next with the traditional “wassail” greeting.
There are two distinct variations of wassailing. One involves groups of merrymakers going from one house to another, wassail bowl in hand, singing traditional songs and generally spreading fun and good wishes. The other form of wassailing is
generally practiced in the countryside, particularly in fruit growing regions, where it is the trees that are blessed. In this case, though the ceremony varies from village to village, its core elements include a wassail king and queen who lead a musical procession from one orchard to the next.
Upon arrival the queen will be lifted into the branches to place toast soaked in the wassail drink from the “Clayden Cup” as a gift to the spirits of the tree accompanied by songs such as…
The other revellers will then shout, sing and bang drums, pots and pans to scare off any evil spirits that happen to be in the locality.
Wassailing still takes place in a number of West Country villages - many in the area where I now live, a traditional apple growing and cider-making area.
Colour is a hugely important part of our day-to-day lives, exerting enormous influence on our mood, feelings and even has the power to suggest hidden messages – whose interpretation may vary depending upon the viewer. We all react to colours in different ways, depending a great deal upon our background and culture.
Most of us have the opportunity to travel more than ever before, and we are surrounded by images of the world around us, so we have plenty of colour combinations, both the familiar and more exotic to choose from, from the hot colours of India and the icy blues of the polar regions, to the hues of nature that surround our homes.
In the west, we associate green with fertility, red with anger, whilst white is the colour of purity and innocence used for brides’ dresses and babies’ Christening robes. However in China white, not black, is the colour of mourning whilst Indian wives wearing white are considered to be inviting widowhood and unhappiness. We also divide colours into “warm” and
“cool” – reds, oranges and yellows as opposed to blues and greens.
Our prehistoric ancestors viewed red as the colour of fire and blood, whilst we continue to view it as the colour of love, seduction and passion. Nobody can be indifferent to red. Indeed, red is one of the top two favourite colours of all people, and is regarded as the colour of good luck in Asia.
In English (and most languages), there are separate words for “green” and “blue” that we learn from our earliest days. But - did you know there are a number of cultures with a completely different system of grouping and naming colours - whose members do not see the (to us obvious) different colours that are blue and green.
It’s interesting to think that different people looking at the same photograph will see the same wavelengths of light but, due to cultural differences, they will perceive these colours in very different ways.
January … a time to look forwards, to a new year, a new season and, after the feasting and festivities of Christmas, possibly even a new you! Or, at the very least, if you’re like me, a determination to eat more healthily and lose some of those Christmas pounds over the next few weeks.
January can be a bit of a gloomy time of year as the winter closes in, bills land on the doormat and spring seems a long way off. But there will be bright sparkling days among the grey ones, crisp and frosty dog walks to enjoy before returning to a warm cheerful house, with perhaps a warming casserole or tasty soup (I have included a couple of my favourites on the following pages) on the stove to warm and comfort chilled bodies. The days are growing longer now too, though almost imperceptibly at first, and by the end of the month
there will be snowdrops in bloom and strong green spikes of later bulbs pushing their way up through the ground.
In my kitchen garden the garlic is growing strongly, and I welcome the colder weather as it needs a period of frost for the bulb to divide into separate cloves. There is a saying that you should plant garlic on the shortest day of the year, and harvest it on the longest, so it too is a promise that warmer days will return again, even though there’s still a while to wait.
So for now, light the stove, pick up your stitching, or maybe a new book from Christmas - I have been given Gardening with Chickens(!) which I’m reading from cover to cover in preparation for my new feathered friends’ arrival in the spring when I hope to be gathering plenty of eggs - if not in time for Easter, then hopefully not too long afterwards!
● Melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan and add the leeks, potatoes, onions and a large pinch of salt. Cover and cook over a low heat for 15 minutes until soft and translucent. Do not allow them to colour.
● Add the stock, milk and bay leaves and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down, cover and simmer for 20 minutes until the potato is very soft.
● Transfer the soup to a blender (or use a stick blender in the saucepan), removing the bay leaves and blend until smooth.
● Strain the blended soup back into the pan for an extra smooth velvety texture. Reheat.
● Season to taste and serve hot with crusty bread.
Ingredients ● 50g
chopped ● 3
peeled and chopped ● 1
vegetable stock ● 300ml milk ● 2 dried
● Salt and
leeks (about 500g)
I must admit I hadn’t given a great deal of thought to the ecological impact of the fashion for feathered hats during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But when I was researching “featherwork” for my new edition of “The Stitcher’s Alphabet” I was taken aback to realise just how extensive and damaging a fashion it was. It’s too much to include in “The Stitcher’s Alphabet” so I thought I’d write about it here, since you may find it as interesting as I did….
In the nineteenth century to possess a feathered hat was to be in the height of fashion. Adorned with beautiful plumes, and sometimes even whole birds, these hats were fantastic but macabre creations were gorgeous creations thanks to the millions of birds slaughtered to satisfy demand for this fashion. Feathers had been used in clothing for centuries, but the plume trade escalated from the 1870’s through to the early 1900’s until the most popular avian species had been hunted to the verge of extinction.
The most beautiful birds were targeted first as exotic feathers became a highly coveted status symbol. Women sported feathers, wings and other bird parts on their hats. Tiny hummingbird bodies were worn as jewellery….
Harper’s Bazaar, 1868:
Feathers also became a favourite way to decorate parasols, muffs, boas and fans as well as hats. As the craft of taxidermy advanced, entire birds were used to adorn these items…
Harper’s Bazaar, 1875:
By the end of the nineteenth century this grotesque trade had brought several species of birds including flamingos, birds of paradise and roseate spoonbills to the brink of extinction. Topping the endangered list were snowy and great egrets. At one point their pure white feathers were worth more than gold. Hunters targeted rookeries because feathers are most resplendent during mating season. They often skinned parents and left their chicks in the nests to die. Indeed it was reported that plume hunters commonly destroyed rookeries of several hundred birds in just two or three days.
An egret and chicks
A selection of Victorian ladies in their feathered hats
TheearthisbareandbrownthisJanuary. Theseverefrostatthebeginningoflastmonth finishedtheworkoftheautumngales,destroyingthelastofthefieldandgardenflowers, flatteningthebrackenuponthehillsandstrippingthewoodstotheirinmostrecesses. Eventhe oaks,whichinordinaryseasonsholdtheirdryleavestowhisperineverywindthewinter through,havebeenclearedthisyear;andthelonglineofthewoodsstandsstarkagainstthe wintrysky.
Allroundthecornerofthefieldwherethesheep-foldistheholliesstandintheiruntouched crimson. Thatisremarkable,becauseonothertrees,inmoresecludedpositions,theberriesare fastdwindling. BeforeNovemberwasoutthebirdshadbegunuponthem;hadthecropnotbeen soextraordinarilyprofuse,everytreeuponthedownswouldhavebeenbarebynow.
Whytheyshouldhavebegunupontheberriessoearlyishardtotell,fortheweatherwasmild andotherfoodstoresunexhausted,whereastheberriesofthehollyaresupposedtobethebirds’ emergencyration,onlytobedrawnuponasalastrecourseinveryhardtimes. Perhapstheywere tempted,human-wise,bytheunusualbeautyandabundance. Atanyrate,itisonemoreinstance thattheonlyinfallibleruleinbirdlifeisthat“thereisnorule.”
Thistimeofgeneraloverheadleaflessnessisthebestofalltheyearforobservingthetree-shapes. Standingoutagainstamistygreyorasnowylandscape,ourwoodlandandhedgerowtreestake onadifferentcharacter,asdistinctfromthatoftheirleafinessastheetchingfromtheoil painting. Colourhasgivenplacetoform;trunksstandoutinfirmandmajesticoutline;twigsand branchesareinterlacedinaclear,sharptracery;swellingbudsshowdarkandroundedagainst thesky. Notthatcolourisaltogetherlacking;eachtreeisetchedinitsowndistinctivetintgreyishbrownfortheoak,purpleforthebirchandthebeech;andsoonthroughahundred gradationsofthedifferentshades.
Thereisnoneedatthistimeofyeartoexamineatreecloselyinordertoidentifyit. Thefaroff formscanbedistinguishedataglance-theoak,shortandmassiveoftrunkandbranchingatthe forktoaspreadingheadofmanyboughs;theelmwithacertainresemblancetotheoak,butmore graceful,dividingattheforkintotwoorthreemainlimbs,thensoaringratherthanspreading. Thentheash,withitssmootheroutlineandfew,sparsely-setboughs;thebeech,likeacathedral pillar;thepoplar,pointingskywardandsoon,tothatdelicateladyofthewoods,thesilverbirch, withitsgleamingwhitestemandtraceryofpurpletwigs.
OnthewindofJanuary Downflitsthesnow, TravellingfromthefrozenNorth Ascoldasitcanblow. Poorrobinredbreast, Lookwherehecomes; Lethimintofeelyourfire, Andtosshimofyourcrumbs.
Celebrated on January 6, Epiphany is one of the oldest and most important festivals in the Christian church. In the Eastern church the feast is primarily celebrated as the baptism day of Christ, whilst in the Western church we remember the visit of the three kings, or Magi. It’s not at all certain how the Magi became known as the three kings - as their number varied in the past from anywhere between two and twelve, but the Western church finally settled on three, presumably to equal the number of gifts. They probably came from Persia and were gradually assigned names and characteristics. Young Caspar brought frankincense for divinity, old Melchior bore gold for kingship and Balthazar carried myrrh for humanity and the bitterness of the Crucifixion to come.
Their arrival at the stable in Bethlehem was celebrated on Twelfth Night with a party. It was a popular festival, the final fling at the end of the Christmas season. The Twelfth Night cake, baked in honour of the kings, contained a bean and a pea and whoever found them played king and queen for the evening, ordering games and demanding forfeits. Sometimes other charms were mixed into the cake - bells for a wedding perhaps, or a thimble for an old maid. In England the
tradition of the cake goes back as far as the medieval court of Edward II.
Under the Julian Calendar, January 5 is Old Christmas Eve. Old Christmas is particularly noted for the legend of the Glastonbury Thorn, a tree which was reputed to have grown from Joseph of Aramathea’s staff and which always bloomed at Christmas. When England adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752 there was great curiosity to see which Christmas - Old or Newthe tree would blossom on. The traditionalists were encouraged to ignore the new calendar when the tree chose the old date.
These days Epiphany is mainly marked as being the end of the festive season and the time to take down the Christmas decorations. In England the day after Epiphany is called St Distaff’s Day and was traditionally the time for women to return to their spinning, though the men managed to delay their return to work until Plough Monday, the first Monday after February. Finally 2 February, Candlemas, brought the ultimate end to Christmas. Sometimes a bowl of snowdrops was put in place of the Christmas evergreens on this date, to signify that Candlemas was not just the end of Christmas, but the beginning of spring.