Monday, September 11, 2017

D.E. Stevenson

I'm currently reading some books by D.E. Stevenson and I thought I'd share a little about the author and one of her books which I read recently.

 Dorothy Emily Stevenson was born in Edinburgh on the 18th of November 1892. She lived in Scotland all her life. Most of her over 40 books were written in Dumfriesshire. She was related to the famous Scottish writer, Robert Louis Stevenson, who was her father's first cousin. Dorothy was educated at home by a governess and began to write stories and poems at the age of eight.

Dorothy Emily Peploe at age six. It is titled "Dear Little Miss Moffat".
She was 24 when she married Captain James Reid Peploe of the 6th Gurkha Rifles in 1916. The Peploes had four children.

Dorothy Emily Stevenson's wedding photograph.

Her first published novel was Peter West , which had appeared as a serial in Chambers Journal . Mrs. Tim of the Regiment was written in 1932 and has sequels: Mrs. Tim Carries On (1941), Mrs. Tim gets a Job (1947) , and Mrs. Tim Flies Home (1952). The Mrs. Tim books actually grew out of Dorothy's diaries she had kept as an "army wife" and were very successful. I've read the first two Mrs. Tim books and loved them.

While Mrs. Tim (Her name was actually Hester Christie and Tim was her husband) was very popular with readers both in Great Britain and overseas, another character, Miss Buncle, also accumulated many fans when she first appeared in Miss Buncle's Book in 1934. Those who loved Miss Buncle were delighted to see her reappear in Miss Buncle Gets Married (1936) and The Two Mrs. Abbots (1943). The readers of D. E. Stevenson's novels are often gratified by her tendency to allow her characters to "come back" in sequels to their original books, either as main characters, secondary characters or in cameos.

Those who read D. E. Stevenson's books for their cosy portrayal of friendship, love and family life are often surprised that she wrote An Empty World in 1936 which can best be described as science fiction! The setting is 1973 and deals with the aftermath of the destruction of life on earth by a giant comet.

The themes and plots of the eight books D. E. Stevenson wrote during the World War II were of course affected by the turmoil and uncertainty of the times. They were The English Air (1940), Mrs. Tim Carries On (1941), Spring Magic (1942), Crooked Adam (1942), Celia's House (1943), The Two Mrs. Abbotts (1943), Listening Valley (1944) and The Four Graces (1946). Of these I've read Mrs. Tim Carries On and Celia's House.

In this book, five young Ayrtons all grew up at Amberwell, playing in the gardens and preparing themselves to venture out into the world. To each of these children, Amberwell meant something different, but common to all of them was the idea that Amberwell was more than just where they lived - it was part of them.

Amberwell drove one of its children into a reckless marriage and healed another of his wounds...and there was one child who stayed at home and gave up her life to keep things running smoothly.

I've read five of her books, now....or, rather, listened to them. At the moment, I've a lot of hand stitching to do and listening to a book makes the time go by very nicely. So far, they have been very cosy, indeed, and have an overall warmth about them that make them very pleasant. I enjoy her development of characters and her devotion to depicting the moral high ground; nothing raunchy or terribly shocking in these pages. Often, there's a bit of a mystery but mostly, she unfolds the mountains, moors & lochs of Scotland so beautifully, you can almost smell the heather. Then, she adds a sprinkling of romance, a villain or tow, and you're off to the races. 

If you're looking for pleasant reading, this is it, most certainly. Generally, I tend to read all an author writes, one book after the other in chronological order. I won't be doing that with this author since not all of them are on audio books. Like Ngaio Marsh, I'll have to read the audibles as they are produced, and they are usually published out of order. I hope you will read them and like them too.

Monday, September 4, 2017

New Wall Hanging Pattern.....

...just in time for end of Summer: 
"Harvest Wagon"

The pattern makes a wall hanging 29" x 26" with instructions for fusible web applique' by hand and machine. This is the first time we've offered machine applique' suggestions and techniques for our customers.

We hope you'll like this new addition to our pattern library.

Coming soon: Prairie Cottage Corner teaches "Apliquick" techniques for our patterns.

This is soooooo much fun. I just absolutely must share it with you.

So, until next time, keep on stitching!

Monday, July 31, 2017

New Patterns for Applique' Lovers: Prairie Meadow Bird & Bunny

Joan, over at MooseStash Quilting just sent these samples from our latest patterns to us
and they are beautiful. They look exactly like the models we drew.

We used batiks, exclusively, for these samples and recommend the same for those who
choose to make the projects. Less raveling! More dynamic color!

They are sold separately. We would have liked to have put them in one pattern but it
would be too big to fit into the covering bag.

Here's a detail from the Bird border.....

and from the Bunny border.

All the pieces are nice and large and simple for those who want to use needle-turn or freezer-paper methods of applique. The pattern includes instructions for fusible web applique' by hand or by machine.

We hope you'll enjoy these new patterns!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Asparagus Galore!

I mumbled something about "plowing under the asparagus plot" earlier this spring, we not having had much from the 75 corms we planted a few years ago....thinking it had been a waste of time.


We checked last week and what do you think? Fifty....count'em....50 lovely stalks of the gorgeous  green spears. Oh how nice. So, we steamed them and ate them with some butter and salt and pepper.

Now, this week, we have more!

And we're going to have them wrapped in bacon. I mean, even if you hate asparagus, what's not to like about anything wrapped in bacon?

So I hunted around for a good, simple recipe and found it here, on Julie's "Lovely Little Kitchen" blog. I do love home-grown bloggers and Julie's site is really nice. Please visit and check it out...and get this recipe for salty, smoky, crispy goodness! 

I don't think my little patch will be enough for all I want to do with asparagus so we plan to buy a box for my other asparagus treat: pickled asparagus. It's to die for!

See you later!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Freezer Paper Applique' Tools & Methods

One of my sewing boxes. I like sewing boxes. I don't have enough of them. I think I should have one for every project. Not that I have a lot of projects but I do have more than two. Ergo, I should have at least 4 sewing boxes. Is each box fully equipped? No. I have an etui, needle case, which is my basic mainstay for applique', below. I put it in with whatever project I'm currently working on because it has all my basic hand-sewing tools.

This etui holds my embroidery and applique' tools. In the center section are my applique' needles; on the right, are the embroidery needles plus a few pins, both straight and safety. In the right hand pouch are two steel thimbles, one for regular sewing and one for quilting. In the center pouch is my under thimble (for the middle finger, left hand, which opposes the needle underneath when quilting), a small metal needle threader and some finger cots (to protect my fingers and help pull the needle when sewing). On the left are my scissors and tweezers. This etui folds up by overlapping the right and left sections and is held together on the outside with a cloth-wrapped elastic band. I use this bifold etui more than any other one I have.

Just as an aside, above is a neat little thread holder and pin cushion combined. The thread spools are held in place by a piece of ribbon that runs through every one of them in every section all around the cushion. To dispense any of the threads, just pull the strand and it comes right off for you. The small spools in the holder are Superior Threads topline threads. I use them for applique' when I have matching fabric for them. They are wonderful threads, smooth and tangle-free for the most part.

A while back, I was making a new sample of my etui pattern called Heart Etui, for a shop. I covered how to make this needle case in another post, several years ago. The inside needle pad is this heart-shaped piece with a saying on it. It holds tons of needles when full. On the outside of the Heart Etui are some leaves and a flower which I put there using Freezer Paper Applique'. Freezer Paper Applique' is my favorite way to do applique'. It looks just like needle-turned applique' when you're finished. It takes a little longer than needle-turned but has the advantage of being fool-proof as to the final shape of the pieces and their placement on the background. In order to achieve the right effect, though, one needs a few tools and tricks, always.

Here are the leaves. I've traced the leaves from the pattern page onto Freezer Paper, then, ironed the Freezer Paper to the back of the fabric. Then, I cut them out about 1/4" away from the freezer paper edge. Next, I basted a hem all around the leaf using white thread. I always use white thread because colored threads can "dye" the fabric sometimes. After the pieces are blind stitched to the background, I remove the basting threads and the paper.

Here are all the pieces for the front applique' of the Heart Etui. There are three leaves, five or six petals and the flower center. Since the petals are overlapped by the flower center, I need hem only the portions of the petals that will show.

Here I am, basting the leaves.

Begin on the right, upper side of the leaf and let your knot show on the top of the piece. End, without a knot, on the top as well. That way, when the piece is sewed down, you can easily remove the basting threads.

When I'm getting ready to Blind Stitch the pieces in place, I thread all my applique' needles I will need, at once, using this nifty Clover needle threader. Then, I put all the threaded needles in my bifold etui and use them, one right after another so I don't have to break away from stitching for too long to rethread. The needle sticks straight up in a hole on the top of the threader while the thread to be used is held over the middle slot of the threader, gently but firmly. The lever on the right is pushed down and the thread is looped through the needle inside the threader.

You can see, here, the thread looped through the eye of the needle. I blind stitch with a single thread, so I secure the thread at the top of the needle with a little slip knot. I knot the end with a quilter's knot. Then, I'm ready to sew.

Here are the leaves, top, underside and unfinished.

Here's a leaf all hemmed and ready to go. To do the points, bring the fabric point straight down over the paper point and fold the sides over it. Secure with a hem stitch and you have almost perfect points all the time.

Here's the front of the Heart Etui, with the leaves glued in place.

When gluing, put dots of glue all around the piece, on the fabric not on the paper. Try, also, to avoid gluing the hemming threads, but that's not always avoidable. Flip the piece and press it down for about 1/2 hour with a heavy book or something like that.

One of the down sides of hand sewing is the wear and tear on fingers and fingertips. Some stitchers don't care if their fingertips are abraded and rough. I can't bear it, myself, so I protect my fingertips with little sleeves or cots, cut from plastic gloves. Yes, I'm a woose about this.

But the cots not only protect my fingertips, they also help build traction on the needle when I have to pull it through multiple layers of applique'.

And, yes, they do wear out rather fast. I usually go through a pair of them in a day of sewing. But they're relatively cheap and handy.

So here I am, with thimble, ready to go.

Blind Stitching is my favorite part of the applique'. It's when the piece really starts to take shape. Here you can see the hem basted leaf, glued with a few dots of glue to the background. I've taken a stitch and buried my knot, then, come up through bare edge of the leaf, picking up about three strands of the fabric right on the edge. Then, down through the layers, beside the last stitch, and up, again, about 1/8" away from the last stitch,  picking up about three of the woven threads of the leaf fabric.

Here, you can see it from another angle.

After finishing the blind stitching all around, except for the end that will be under the flower petals, I cut the basting thread and pull them out.

Then, pull out the freezer paper....

...and one leaf is done. Now for the rest of them.

Here they are, all stitched, all freezer paper removed and the points held in place by pins, ready for the petals to go over the tops.

Same process again, placing, gluing, blind stitching.....

...and removing the paper. Below is a sketch of the finished front of the Heart Etui.

I hope this helps your hand applique' somewhat. We have a group of stitchers who meet weekly at our local quilt shop, Experience Quilts!. We call the group "Unplugged" because we are all doing hand work of one sort or another....some applique, embroidery, knitting. Anything that doesn't need to be plugged in is allowed. It's a lively group.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

What's a "Long Rider" and Who was Essie Pearl?

Essie Pearl was a Norwegian Fjord pony with a lot of miles on her. If you love horses, as I do, take some time to read her story and the stories of her journeys with Bernice Ende, of Trego, Montana.

Bernice is a Long Rider. Do you know what a Long Rider is? Read about it here. Long Riders are men and women who have ridden horseback for 1,000 continuous miles on a single equestrian journey.

Bernice is a wonderful woman, living in one of the more remote parts of the United States, where I lived, once, as a small child and remember well. Trego and Stryker, Montana, were the places in which our family spent the most time in the immediate post WWII years. We lived in Stryker and my parents taught at the Trego School. My dad helped build the Trego Community Hall in the early 1950's, which Bernice mentions in her blog posts.

If you love horses, as I do, you won't be able to leave her site without reading and reading and reading. This ballerina (yes, that's what I said) and her wonderful journeys in real life, will capture your interest and your love. Rest in peace, Essie Pearl, faithful bearer and friend to Bernice...much admired by all of us.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Great English Mysteries - Dorothy L. Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh's A PRESUMPTION OF DEATH

The truth will out, don't you know? And the truth is: I'm an inveterate reader of English mystery writers and Victorian authors. Looking at my Kindle, the other day, there are more than 300 books on it; most of them from British writers of one sort or another.

I don't much get into authors born post World War II because they often embellish with graphic sex and violence. I prefer my murders and tales clean and pure...with only the barest suggestion of sex and horror. I like suspense, but not too much violence. I love untangling the mysteries.

I began reading these authors (Christie, Sayers, Chesterton, Collins, Trollop, etc.) when I felt the desire to write a story of my own. I thought studying the established writers would be good for my stories. The first thing I learned about writing was that a talented writer can produce a vivid image of place and time with only a few lines or paragraphs. I was using up pages and pages for descriptions, at first.

Anyway, I thought I would write about writers and books a little, from time to time and the first book I'd like to trot out is A PRESUMPTION OF MURDER, by Jill Paton Walsh. If you read Walsh's biography, you will see that she was a follower of Dorothy L. Sayers. You can find a fairly good biography of Sayers here. She finished the manuscript for THRONES, DOMINATIONS, which Sayers left unfinished at her death in 1957 and went on to write three more Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane novels after that. A PRESUMPTION OF MURDER was the second of the four she wrote, and one of my favorites.

Below: Jill Paton Walsh and Dorothy L. Sayers

Sayers wrote eleven novel and two sets of short stories about her creation, Lord Peter. She said, in later years, she intended to put an end to Lord Peter via matrimony by introducing Harriet Vane. However, Lord Peter refused to die, in her mind, so she wrote one book about their murder-filled honeymoon and, later, the murder mystery in London which she was writing when she died.

Below: the village of Little Gaddesden in Hertfordshire which looks much as I imagine Paggleham would.

Lord Peter books by Dorothy L. Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh (continuation after Sayers's death)

Whose Body? 1923  
Clouds of Witness 1926  
Unnatural Death 1927  
Lord Peter Views the Body (short stories) 1928  
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club 1928  
Strong Poison 1930  
Five Red Herrings 1931  
Have His Carcase 1932  
Hangman's Holiday (short stories) 1933  
Murder Must Advertise 1933  
The Nine Tailors 1934  
Gaudy Night 1935  
Busman's Honeymoon 1937  
Striding Folly (short stories) 1973
Thrones, Dominations (co-author Jill Paton Walsh) 1998  
A Presumption of Death (co-author Jill Paton Walsh) 2002

Below: I can imagine Talboys would have looked something like this:



The story takes place in the village of Paggleham, Hertfordshire. Lady Peter had evacuated to the village from London at the start of World War II, with her two children and the three children of her sister-in-law, Mary Wimsey Parker. Their home, Talboys, was introduced in an earlier novel, BUSMAN'S HONEYMOON, another of my favorites, along with several of the local "color" characters, Superintendent Kirk and Miss Twittertown. At the time, the villagers were establishing and digging bomb shelters. The night of an air raid drill, a young woman, one of the Land Girls, was found dead on the High Street, after the drill.  

Underlying the murder mystery is the world of the war, Bunter and Lord Peter's long absence on a spying venture in Europe and the usual, lovely English village and country life. The lives of the several children are intertwined throughout and the threat of bombings and invasions looms ever over all.

I liked this story very much because we finally see Lord Peter and Harriet with their family, complete, in the English countryside, albeit, over-shadowed by the dangers of war and the threat of murder. The pleasant scenes are unforgettable. I am especially fond of how the love of Peter and Harriet has grown and blossomed.

It would be good to read all the Lord Peter novels in order of publication, especially from STRONG POISON forward. Those latter books build the relationship between Lord Peter and Harriet very well. Oh, how I wish Dorothy Sayers were still writing; and that Jill Paton Walsh would keep on with the Lord Peter Wimsey stories.

I'll write about the other novels, too, in time, but this is my favorite right now. I hope you'll enjoy it too.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Rest in Peace - Debbie

One of my best friends, Debbie, died late last year. She was a very good person and a great friend. Debbie and I met in the 1980's when she was just going through a divorce and recovering from a transplant operation. 

She had suffered brittle diabetes all through her life from the time she was about 12 years old. Gradually, it undermined her health until, in her early 60's. she died from the effects of influenza. At the time of her death, she had been blind for several years; a result of the diabetes. 

She was a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I miss her and her prayers and her exemplary devotion to the Savior.

This is one of her favorite poems:

A Psalm of Life


What The Heart Of The Young Man Said To The Psalmist.

Tell me not, in mournful numbers, 
   Life is but an empty dream! 
For the soul is dead that slumbers, 
   And things are not what they seem. 

Life is real! Life is earnest! 
   And the grave is not its goal; 
Dust thou art, to dust returnest, 
   Was not spoken of the soul. 

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow, 
   Is our destined end or way; 
But to act, that each to-morrow 
   Find us farther than to-day. 

Art is long, and Time is fleeting, 
   And our hearts, though stout and brave, 
Still, like muffled drums, are beating 
   Funeral marches to the grave. 

In the world’s broad field of battle, 
   In the bivouac of Life, 
Be not like dumb, driven cattle! 
   Be a hero in the strife! 

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant! 
   Let the dead Past bury its dead! 
Act,— act in the living Present! 
   Heart within, and God o’erhead! 

Lives of great men all remind us 
   We can make our lives sublime, 
And, departing, leave behind us 
   Footprints on the sands of time; 

Footprints, that perhaps another, 
   Sailing o’er life’s solemn main, 
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother, 
   Seeing, shall take heart again. 

Let us, then, be up and doing, 
   With a heart for any fate; 
Still achieving, still pursuing, 
   Learn to labor and to wait.