A Bustle & Sew Publication
Copyright © Bustle & Sew Limited 2023
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.
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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 2023 by: Bustle & Sew Station House West Cranmore Shepton Mallet BA4 4QP www.bustleandsew.com
Though the snowdrops have been in bloom for a couple of weeks now and, as I write this in the last week of February, there are already daffodils to be seen flowering in more sheltered places than ours, spring is definitely on her way, and March heralds her arrival “proper”. We pass the equinox this month, and so there can be no return to those long dark winter nights, though there may well still be some cold weather still to come. Like me, gardeners everywhere are impatient to begin the new growing season, but up here on the chilly Mendips at least, I need to restrain myself for another two or three weeks yet. Still, I will have lots to keep me busy as my long-awaited chickens will be arriving this month. There are two lovely feathered ladies to stitch in this issue, as well as a pair of my favourite garden birds - those cheeky, irreverent sparrows! There are bunnies too in anticipation of Easter, and some lovely new recipes to enjoy in our kitchen section.
I hope you enjoy this issue and the April Magazine will be published on Thursday 30 March, in five weeks time. Until then I hope you have a lovely month lots of time for stitching!
Very best wishes
Whilst we regard March as the first month of spring, astronomically it straddles the seasonsasthefirsttwentydays leading up to the equinox belong to winter. In many respects it’s a month of preparationandanticipation;for farmers it is the sowing season and in the Christian Church the month is largely dominated by the Lenten fast and the approach of Easter.
“IMartiasam!Oncefirst,and nowthird! ToleadtheYearwasmy appointedplace; Amortaldispossessedmebya word, AndsetthereJanuswiththe doubleface.”
temperaturesclimbdramatically and puffy white clouds dash across crystal-clear skiesthough such days are often followedbyfrostynightsorrainy unsettled period. But March brings the spring and by the time the lion has uttered its final winter roar and made way for thegentlerdaysofAprilthelook of the land has been transformed and its life awakened.
Lide - an early name for March -isderivedfromtheOldEnglish word Hlyda, which probably referred to the loudness of the wind this month. The word has survived in a country proverb that recommends the eating of “leeks in Lide and ramsins (garlic) in May”. The AngloSaxons named it Lenetmonath (length month) which refers to the lengthening of the days during this month.
March is named for Mars, the Roman god of war and it used to bethefirstmonthoftheyear; it was only when the Roman calendar was replaced with the Gregorian calendar in the eighteenth century that another month - again named for a Roman god, this time Janustook its place on the first page of the calendar.
March can give us glorious sunny days when the air
The first of the month is of course St David’s Day. St David is the patron saint of Wales and little is known for certain about his life, though he is said to have been the son of aprinceorchieftainofCardigan in Wales, and to have founded several Welsh monasteries.
Customs observed on St David’sDayincludethewearing of one of the national symbols of Wales, either a leek in the
hatband or a daffodil in the buttonhole. There has been much debate over the significance of the leek. St David is thought to have instructed his men to wear leeks in battle so that they could be easily distinguished from the enemy, whilst an alternative explanation is simply that leeks, like daffodils, are readily available at this time of year. It was formerly customary on 1 March for villagers to help out any neighbours who hadn’t been able to finish their ploughing before the end of February and each would bring a contribution, often in the form of a leek, to the communal meal that would be enjoyed at the end of a hard day’s work.
By the middle of the month the hedgerows around our house are beginning to bloom, decked with first blackthorn blossom (which oftenheraldsacoldsnap),followed by hawthorn, and, later in the season,wildhoneysucklesanddog roses. At the base of the hedges you can see fresh green growththebrightgreenofyoungnettletips is particularly prominent, though you will also see violets, primroses and again, later in the season, bluebells will begin to appear.
Walking quietly along a hedge as dusk falls, listening to the rustling
ofsmallcreaturesandthefinalnotes ofbirdsong,whilstsmellingthefresh scents of damp earth and newgrowing plants gives a sense like nothingelsecanofnaturepreparing for a new growing season ahead.
“Robert,thismorning, complainsofinsufficient breakfast. Cannotfeelthat porridge,scrambledeggs,toast, marmalade,scones,brown bread,andcoffeegiveadequate groundsforthisbutadmit porridgeisslightlyburnt. How impossibleevertoencounter burntporridgewithoutvivid recollectionsofJaneEyreat LowoodSchool,sayI parenthetically. Thisliterary allusionnotasuccess.”
Piran’s Day is the national day of Cornwall and is celebrated on 5 March. St Piran is the patron saint of tin miners and he’s sometimes given the credit for discovering this metal. The Cornish flag - a white cross on a black background, is said to represent the granite that rolled from his fire one night, oozing
white tin. Little is known about the life of this saint, though it’s believed that he was born in Ireland in the sixthcentury. He wasknownforhis miraculous deeds and the story goes that a group of jealous nobles put a millstone around his neck and threw him into the sea. But he didn’t drown, instead floating to shore at Perranporth, which is named after him. There he began to spread the word about Christianity, his first disciples being a fox, a bear and a badger.
Easter often falls during the month of March - although not this year. A complicated ecclesiastic formula dictates that Easter Sunday should be celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the first full moon after the spring equinoxunless that day itself is a Sunday which delays the celebration of Easter by another week. The earliest that Easter Day can fall is March 22, and the latest more than a full month later on April 25. (This year Easter Sunday falls on April 9). But here in the UK the real day to celebrate is the day the clocks go forward and British Summer Time begins. Overnight the winter gloom is banished and we experience an instant feeling of wellbeing.
Marchbringsamomentofharmony-atimeofperfectbalancewhen dayandnightareofequallength-thetimeoftheSpring,orVernal Equinox. Thismomentmarksthetransitionbetweenwinterand spring,thetimewhenthenewseasonbeginsaswemoveinexorably towardsthewarmerdaysandshorternightsofthesummermonths ahead.
ThisyeartheequinoxfallsonMonday20March,whichisthedate whenthesunpassesovertheequatorfromsouthtonorth. Inthe winterthetiltoftheearth’saxisbringsthenorthernhemisphere furtherfromthesun,whichmakesthesun’sheatweakerandthedays shorter. Thenasspringprogresses,theNorthPolegraduallybegins topointtowards thesun,whichdayondayriseseverhigherinthe sky. Thismakesthedayslonger,temperaturesbegintoriseand summerishasarrived!
Berlin wool work is a style of hardwearing embroidery similar to today's needlepoint that was particularly popular in Europe and America from 1804 to 1875. It is typically executed with wool yarn on canvas, worked in a single stitch such as cross stitch or tent stitch, although Beeton's book of Needlework (1870) describes 15 different stitches for use in Berlin work. Its name derives from the type of wool originally used for this work - a German wool - a loose, untwisted merino yarn dyed in a multitude of shades. In the early nineteenth century it was produced
in Gotha in Germany and dyed in Berlin, whilst later it was also manufactured in Yorkshire.
The first Berlin wool patterns were printed in black and white on grid paper and then hand-coloured. Previously, the stitcher was expected to draw the outlines on the canvas and then stitch following the colours on the pattern. Counted stitch patterns on charted paper, similar to modern cross-stitch patterns, made it easier to execute the designs, because amateur embroiderers were able to follow the patterns
using just a simple tent stitch. They were published mostly as single sheets which made them affordable to middle-class women, who now, thanks to the Industrial Revolution that had created a larger middle class, had more time for stitching. The creation of more wealth and more stitchers fostered a demand for canvas, wool and patterns. Public taste for increasing decoration in the home was also part of the Victorian lifestyle.
Wehavebecomesoaccustomedtowishingeachothera HappyNewYearaweekafterChristmasthatthetwo festivalshavebecomeinseparableinourminds,anditseems strangetoustothinkthatourancestorskeptNewYear’s DayuponMarch25. ThismorningNaturekeptjustsucha NewYear’sDayasourancestorsmuchhaveknown. Short, suddenshowers,withsunshinebetween,hadleftthewhole outerworldclean-washedandglistening.
Seenfromtheheathabove,thevalleyfieldsmadea chessboardofbrownandgreen-brownforthelong-ridged ploughedlandswheretherookswerebusilypromenading, greenfortheruffledwheatfields. Atthebottomofthe slopeawavinglineofemerald,likeabroadhighwayacross thechequer,markedthecourseofthestream. Higherup, againstthegreenofasunnymeadow,anumberofwhite dotsshowedthatthelambswiththeirmotherswereout fromthefold. Inonepartofthefieldthedotshad thickenedtoacrowd,andalthoughatthatheightitwas impossibletodistinguishmovement,anyoneatall acquaintedwiththewaysoflambscouldtellwhatwasgoing on.
Justatthatspotthereisashallowtrench,thedrybedof somedisusedwaterway,andeverydaythelambsgather theretopractiseleaping. Itisamusingtowatchthem huddledinawoollyheapuponthebankwaitingforoneto takethelead. Foralongtimenotoneofthemwilldareit, andtheycrowdandjostleanddigintoeachothers’fleeces withbluntblacknozzles. Intheendthefirsttogooveris usuallyprecipitated;losingitsfooting,itjumps,clearsthe trench,andisfollowedonebyonebytheothers. Thenafter anintervalforrefreshments,theygatheragainatthesame spotandtheprocessisrepeated.
“Thatcomebeforetheswallow dares,andtakethewindsofMarch withbeauty”
Todaywe’remuchmoreconsciousof the impact our actions have on our environment - but have you ever considered the effect of those stacks of green floral foam popular with flowerarrangersacrosstheglobe?
Floralfoamwasinventedinthe1950’s and has been used by florists and home flower arrangers ever since as it’s absorbent, resilient and great at keeping your flowers in place. But it’s non-recyclable and doesn’t biodegrade, making it a serious environmental threat. Manufacturers are currently trying to develop alternative biodegradable foam, but in the meantime perhaps we should be considering more environmentally friendly alternatives, and returning to the more old-fashioned methods of using scrumpled chicken wire, pin frogs and more.
Chicken wire is ideal for using in opaque containers and for creating
largedisplays. It’slightweightandcan be moulded into cylinders, spheres and more irregular shapes such as for displays around doors, archways and up staircases. It will generally retain its shape without the need for additional fastening and, as long as you are prepared to take the time to straighten it out, can be reused indefinitely. You can find different colours of chicken wire, including on-trend copper, if you plan to place it where it will be seen.
Pinfrogs,flowerfrogsortheJapanese name kenzan, come in many different sizes and shapes that can be used in almost any container. They have the virtue of being both reusable and cheap. A pin frog is basically a weighted disc topped with a bed of pins that can be placed into the bottomofacontainer. Youpusheach stem into one of the prongs. They are widely used by Japanese floral designers.
Pin frogs are also good to use in conjunction with chicken wire. Try
using one in the bottom of a container to make your arrangement really secure if you want to use a heavier branch or stem. They are very heavy sowillstabilisethecontainer. Youcan alsousespecialistflorist’sgluetostick them to the base of the vase. If you don’t have either of these, then a simple method of keeping stems in place is to use a crisscross grid of florist’s or other tape across the top of your vase.
For natural looking arrangements, create structural support by using branchesfromshrubsortrees,placing them first and ensuring that their side branchescrossorcomecloseenough together to provide support to the flower stems. Depending on the season you could use berried branchesinautumnorblossomatthis time of year so that these branches will also form part of your design.
And finally, a great tip to keep the water clear is to dissolve a quarter of ababy’ssterilizingtabletintothewater.
March brings longer days, and, before the end of the month, warmer temperatures. This is the month when the natural world around us begins to awaken from its winter sleep. Young plants push through the cold earth in search of the warming rays of spring sunshine. In the kitchen we crave dishes flavoured with the first of the fresh herbs, parsley and chives whilst the wild garlic growing in abundance now in the woods around our village provides the perfect flavouring for the new season’s lamb and fish dishes.
But though the sun is stronger now, and the vernal equinox means the days are longer than the nights, March is a month of steps forward into summer - and then backwards again as winter makes a brief return. The one thing you can be sure about March weather here in England is that there are no guarantees; one day will bring warm bright sunshine and the next may
bring torrential rain, high winds and perhaps even a covering of fresh now. Nonetheless, winter is now on the retreat, the spring lambs are out in the fields and around our house we can see the first greens hoots of the summer crops. And in the kitchen too, there is a sense of optimism and expectation. It’s the time for lighter dishes to grace our tables, and in our family fish is a particular favourite, whether from the abundance harvest from around the coast or from our rivers, lakes and streams
In the north of the country, West Yorkshire’s famous forced rhubarb is ready to harvest, its stalks a delicate pale pink following a winter spent undercover, starved of sunlight and brought to its delicious best by traditional candlelight. Cooked in tarts and crumbles, or simply stewed with ginger and/or orange, it provides the perfect ending to a spring meal.
● Small handful of wild garlic
● 350g shelled peas (frozen are fine)
● 2 tablespoons olive oil
● 8 spring onions, sliced
● 225g potatoes, peeled and diced
● 600ml vegetable or chicken stock
● Small handful of fresh mint leaves
● Salt and black pepper
● Double cream to finish (optional)
● Heat the oil in a large saucepan and saute the onions until soft but not coloured. Add the potatoes and stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Add the peas.
● Roughly chop the wild garlic and mint leaves and add to the pan, simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly then puree. Return to the pan and reheat gently.
● Season to taste and ladle into bowls. Serve hot and, if liked, topped with a swirl of double cream and a few peas or sprinkle of wild garlic leaves.
● 125g butter, cubed plus extra for greasing
● 250g plain flour
● 50g sugar
● Pinch of salt
● 1 medium egg, beaten
● 500g rhubarb, cut into 15cm lengths
● 150ml double cream
● 250ml milk
● 1 teaspoon cornflour
● ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
● 2 medium eggs
● 125g sugar
● Preheat the oven to 200C. Make the pastry by rubbing together the butter and flour. Add 50g of the sugar, the salt and the beaten egg. Bring the mixture together with a knife to form a dough.
● Grease a 20cm x 28cm loose bottom tart tin. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface, then line the tin and trim. Chill in the fridge for an hour.
● Take the tin out of the fridge. Lay a sheet of baking parchment over the pastry, fill the tin with baking beans and bake for 0 minus. Remove the paper and beans the bake for a further 5 mins at 180C.
● For the filling: in a bowl combine the double cream, milk, cornflour, vanilla extract and the remaining eggs and sugar.
● Place the rhubarb pieces in the tin in rows and pour over the mixture.
Ifwellmanaged,nothingismorebeautifulthanthekitchen-garden;theearliest blossomscomethere:weshallinvainseekforfloweringshrubsinMarch,andearly inApril,toequalthepeaches,nectarines,apricotsandplums;lateinApril,weshall findnothingtoequalthepearandthecherry;and,inMay,thedwarf,orespalier, apple-trees,arejustsomanyimmensegarlandsofcarnations. Thewalksare unshaded:theyarenotgreasyorcoveredwithmoss,inthespringoftheyear,like thoseinshrubberies:towatchtheprogressofthecropsisbynomeansunentertaining toanyrationalcreature;andthekitchen-gardengivesyouallthislongbeforethe ornamentalpartofthegardenaffordsyouanythingworthlookingat. ThereforeI seenoreasonforplacingthekitchen-gardeninsomeout-of-the-wayplace,ata distancefromthemansionhouse,asifitwereamerenecessaryevil,andunworthyof beingviewedbytheowner. Inthetimeoffruiting,whereshallwefindanything muchmorebeautifultobeholdthanatreeloadedwithcherries,peaches,orapricots, butparticularlythetwolatter?
Damask takes its name from the Syrian capital of Damascus, a weaving and trading city on the old Silk Road along which cloth and much else besides travelled from the Far East to the Mediterranean by caravan. It arrived in Europe from China and the Byzantine and Islamic empires in the early Middle Ages. Damask was a silken cloth, a cloth the like of which no European had seen before, in a weave no one knew how to replicate. The patterns on a piece of damask cloth are formed by the interplay of warp and weft, a technique developed in China by the seventh century. Using just one fibre colour the pattern is created by combining two different weave techniques that set areas of plain matt weave against areas woven in glossy sateen. It is a reversible fabric, on one side you see matt pattern motifs framed by areas of shiny sateen - and on the other side the reverse.
The motifs woven into damask were Persian, Ottoman and Islamic and included pomegranate, pine cones, birds and acanthus leaves, patterns that can still be seen on damask fabrics today. Eventually of course, the Europeans learned the skills needed to weave damask, initially in France, but later
in Venice, Florence and Genoa, travelling to London in the seventeenth century when France expelled the Protestant Huguenot weavers. Though silk was the usual fibre for weaving damask, the tradition in northern Europe was for weaving it in linen and wool.
From its earliest appearance in Europe, silk damask was expensive. Royalty and aristocracy dressed their formal rooms in crimson damask, deeming the effect of candlelight playing over the different matt and shiny textures in damask well worth paying for. Fortunately, as well as being expensive, damask was also durable, perhaps the most famous example being an Italian silk damask chosen for walling a chamber at Hampton Court Palace, near London, in 1689 that wasn’t replaced until nearly three hundred years later, in 1923!
In mid-eighteenth century Britain damask was the most use fabric for covering walls in high status rooms, woven either in silk or wool and stretched on battens. It was still expensive however, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu wrote to her daughter in 1749 about the relative prices of damask flock wall paper and damask fabric, noting that rolls of flock “are as dear as damask, which put an end to my curiosity.”
Nowisthetimeforplanningsummercolourinyourgardenasit’stime togetbackoutsideandprepareyourbordersforsowingbeddingplant seeds.
Asketchbookandabasicpaletteofwatercolourpaintswillallowyou toplayaroundwithcoloursandtextures-andeventuallytodevisea schemethatwillfillyourborderswithcolourandscentthroughoutthe summermonthsandbeyond.