Friday, 29 January 2016


 I had hoped to write this post yesterday, but my computer decided that it didn't want to play ball with me!!  I do get cross when this happens, because I didn't think that it was my fault as I hadn't done anything different.

My solution is always to turn the computer off and come back later as I have this theory that all the world is online at the same time as me and there is a huge blockage somewhere in the ether!!  Well it didn't work at all last night so when I logged on this morning same problem.  However many years ago when computers were the size of a small house, I had to teach myself how to use one at work and as a consequence when anything went wrong I tried to sort it out before I contacted our Helpdesk at the other end of the country.  As a result I can sort out these minor frustrations and it seems to have worked as I am now typing away merrily.

Since I last blogged, I have finished my Mini Mania for December/January with  the 'Grand Reveal' on Sunday.
Sorry, only the back. showing the quilting
Every year Higham Piecemakers have a charity month, when we support a worthy cause.  Last year we made lap quilts or aprons for dementia sufferers, but this year we are going back to a regular good cause, Project Linus incubator quilts, no bigger than 20" (51cm) x 18" (46cm).
My top waiting to be finished
The group were very generously given a roll of wadding by Creative Grids and members can use it for their charity quilts.  I have just received mine and will finish this little incubator quilt next week.

I was back pot washing yesterday and you can read about last week's efforts in my last blog, but this week we were washing human skeletons.  A huge number have been found at the Chester Farm project and in fact these were excavated in 2014, so it could have been one that I dug up.  Out of deference to these Romans I am not allowed to show any human bones, but one person was working on a human skull, full of dirt, which she stopped cleaning after a while because the whole thing would have collapsed without the dirt to keep it held together.  We believe it was a female who had a good set of teeth!!

However, there were still pots being washed and here are some of the more interesting 'finds'.
These maybe more than one pot, but beautiful markings
Top of a bottle
Two pieces of Samian ware joined

A maker's mark - will it fit this pot??
Yes it does!!  The mark is on the inside of the pot.
The maker's mark is important as it is now possible for the experts to date this pot.
A beautiful design of leaves
Samian ware with a design of a hunting dog
and finally  .......
Medieval pie crust dish with decoration made using the thumb ..

.. with thumbprint on the underside
I bet that these makers never thought we would be looking at their work about 2,000 years later!!!

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Pots, pots and bones

At the beginning of this week it was stretching out with plenty of time to sew and catch up on my Mini Mania, when an email dropped into my inbox.  Volunteers were required to help with pot washing for the Chester Farm project and as I had all this free  time I volunteered!

We were very lucky because space had been found at Knuston Hall that was in the warm, had running hot and cold water and a coffee break with home made biscuits.  We were in heaven so we set to and cleaned up the finds from the recent excavations since December 2015.  The pot finds and bones were going to be sent to specialists for analysis and as payment is by the kilo, mud and dirt had to be washed off.
Knuston Hall
The stable block next door to our room
Bowls and toothbrushes at the ready!!
I chose a large bag of pottery bits and pieces and really enjoyed washing off the mud to disclose what was underneath.
Egg trays are useful for drying

Every bag is marked to show where it came from on the archaeological map so each tray must stay with its bag.  I found this lovely looking Roman bowl in my bag -
Slightly out of focus, but note the kink on the left hand side
What a lovely base
Can you see red showing through the black slip just above the base.  These are the potter's fingerprints where he would have held it upside down to dip it in the 'slip' before firing.  How brilliant is that!!   Really proud of this.

We were also shown some other finds:
This a Money Pot and shows how the glaze has run down inside.
Finger mark at the bottom showing where it was held in the slip

 Shell ware was also washed and from the photo you can see the shell pieces glinting in it.  This type of pottery was made extensively in the local area at Harrold and Odell.
Inside - lovely markings
Not washed by us but this rim shows the makers mark - Gratinus
Pot with a lip
The pot above would have been flipped while soft to produce the lip,  Note the makers mark on it.

Next came a big bag of animal bones.  These will checked by the specialist to give some indication of the type of animal - deer, cattle, sheep, goat, rabbit, badger etc.
Shell on the right hand side, mostly fresh water oysters
Teeth, probably from sheep or goats.
I did recognise this as horn when I washed it -

and was delighted when it fitted together very neatly.  Probably sheep or goat.

I hope everything we cleaned was from Roman times but I won't know until the specialist reports come back.

Update on Mini Mania - I have nearly joined all the squares but I have a week to quilt and finish it; onwards and upwards!!  I WILL HAVE IT FINISHED ON TIME - if I say it often enough it will happen.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

How hard it is to be a 'Domestic Goddess'!!!

What a busy weekend it has been!  I spent the whole time sewing in order to get my Mini Mania challenge complete before the end of January.  We have had two months to get it finished and I shall probably go right to the wire.  We have to make a 9 block sampler quilt, no bigger than 20" (51cms) and I have dug deep into my past to come up with these.  Quite literally I have gone back to the drawing board (or graph paper) to design them but thank goodness for this book that I have had for years and always comes up trumps on these occasions.

Lots of small triangles and smaller squares and as this is a sneaky peek no colours.

In between sewing I have also been baking -
These are Peppermint Cracknells, but I think I did not add enough peppermint oil because I can't taste it.  Very yummy.

This is a Devils Food Cake and I have never made it before.  Proper American frosting but I don't think I whisked it long enough because it is slowly descending off the cake!!  Perhaps an American reader can advise me what I have done wrong.

Finally a Caramel Apple Cake that I think I have made before.  Anyway I shall have to see if they are eaten up.  May have some left over to take to Higham Piecemakers tomorrow evening!

I woke up on Sunday morning and when I drew my curtains, this is what greeted me!

Snow, though it didn't last long and was gone by the evening, but my bird table has been very popular.

Well the washing machine has now been mended and has a new drum.  Thank goodness I am on a contract because the engineer told me how much it would have cost - probably cheaper to have a new machine.  Now to clear the backlog of washing.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Cold, cold, cold

Having had reasonably mild weather for the time of year it was quite a shock to get very cold weather yesterday and that was the day I was out in it.

Let me explain. 

Last August I went on an archaeological dig at Chester Farm and just before Christmas I received an email to say that if I wanted to, I could volunteer to go on a dig this week.  However there would be tour of the site if anyone was interested.  I declined the 'dig' (far too cold for me), but accepted the visit and that is why I was outside yesterday.  The wind whipped across the site and all my extremities got colder and colder, but I did manage a few photos.
Last year's dig all covered over for the winter
Looking towards the site of the Roman walled town

We were told that the timetable for 2016 was going to be different because major building work was starting on the site in the early summer and as with all major planning of this type,  archaeological digs had to be undertaken to ensure that there were no major finds likely to be uncovered.  Hence all the open ditches around the farm site.
The barn is coming down so a trench has been dug - nothing there!
The floor of an old Victorian cottage


This is a Roman pit (you can see the round shape disappearing under the concrete) with some finds already bagged up.

and I am holding part of a Roman lock.  How exciting.

We were lucky enough to thaw out in a warm hut, but I was glad to get home as it was so cold.  I may be able to do some digging or associated work in the Spring when it is warmer.

I have a free weekend so I will be concentrating on sewing, but not before an engineer is due to see why my washing machine has gone wrong.  Last week the spin cycle was raucous and when I opened the door smoke poured out and I haven't used it since.  The engineer was due on Tuesday last and never turned up so I was hopeful for today - pause - he has just been and gone and new part is needed that will be fitted next Tuesday - hopefully!!

In the meantime I had a notice through the door that my road would be closed today for 'highway improvements' .  Why?  I have driven on worse roads than mine complete with potholes etc.  Anyway I went out very early to do my weekend shopping and by the time I got back they were working!!
Lots of men working  .....
Lots of lorries and equipment  ....

Removing the top tarmac
and now they have stopped for lunch!  I am sure it will be finished in time with the quantity of men and machinery but I am still not sure why!!!!.

PS They were quite interested when I told them I wrote a blog and that is why I needed the photos and not for any other reason like Health and Safety, inconvenience etc!!

Monday, 11 January 2016

Blue is the colour,

football is the game etc

Yes I am Stamford Bridge to watch Chelsea play Scunthorpe in the 4th round of the FA Cup and what memories it brought back to me.  My husband and I started our 'courting' years coming here, long before the development of the new stands when there were terraces and we were crammed in for big matches.  He was a member of the Chelsea Youth team, but when he got to sixteen they said he wasn't good enough to go into the top teams so he left and carried on his football at Wimbledon, then an amateur team.

So you can see that Chelsea played a huge part in his sporting life and he was a lifelong supporter and I suppose by default, I am, and we brought up our two sons to be supporters as well.

However I haven't been back since he died 10 years ago and so it was a very emotional experience for me.  The other big change is that we had my 10 year old grandson with us so the pre-match experience was completely different; no longer in the pub for the pre-match pints and afterwards to avoid the crowds.  We sat in the family enclosure right down at pitch side, instead of being high up in the stands and it gave a completely different view of the game.
Supporters shirt.  I dusted down my scarf!!

Warm up on the pitch

Then out the teams came.  The first half was all down the other end of the pitch with Scunthorpe defending, though Diego Costa did score a goal for Chelsea (1-0), but we need another!!

Second half started and with sod's law and having changed ends, Scunthorpe started attacking, so once again it was all down at the other end of the pitch.  Suddenly Chelsea were attacking and down our end, and having brought on 19 year old Ruben Loftus-Cheek, he scored the 2nd goal

and Chelsea were now up 2-0!!  Brilliant and we left 2 minutes before the end so that grandson was not squashed in the rush for the Underground trains.

A really brilliant day and memories of the ups and downs of being a supporter of a Football Club.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Cats, cats, cats .....

As I said in earlier posts I spent Christmas in Kent, where my two little granddaughters have two cats called Coco (the female) and Kiki (the male) who are brother and sister.  When I was down there last spring they were only kittens and it was always Coco who took the initiative; she was the first to venture outside, work out how to operate the cat flap and go out into the big wide world of the garden.  Kiki, the wuss, stood on the doorstep and only ventured onto the patio and had to be pushed through the cat flap!!

I discovered at Christmas that my 9 ("nearly 10, Granny"!) year old grandson is allergic to cats so it was entirely appropriate that the Christmas presents that I made for my granddaughters were 'Cats'!!

Those who know me or follow the blog will know that last year I made the girls these dogs and when a friend asked me if I would like a Sewing World magazine because it had cats in, I jumped at the chance.

I realised straightaway that they had been designed by Helen Rhiannon Gill who Had also designed the dog.  So these were to be the presents for the little girls - sorted!!

As with the dogs I decided to make each one with different fabric - hopefully cats - and I was incredibly lucky when a friend said she had two that I could use.  One was a Laurel Birch design and immediately I knew that this was 'The Cheshire Cat'!
 Heads only!
The other fabric was equally exciting and I fell for it straightaway -

This one had to be 'Alley Cat' and the following photos show the fabric in close up
Poor little bird!
He enjoyed that!
There were also mice being eaten and one mouse was holding up a 'Help' sign!!  This was entirely appropriate for a Kent granddaughter as the two kittens are now bringing in all sorts delicious titbits and depositing them on the kitchen floor - worms, dead butterflies, frogs and lately a goldfish!
The final cat was going to Kent as well and was called 'Scat Cat' -
He is a comic cat with fishbones and a happy disposition.

These cats were slightly harder to make as I had to ensure that their tails were well sewn on through their 'bottoms' and still look neat!  Luckily I found some eyes in a local haberdashers and they enhance their expression.
So Ellie in Cambridge has a Cheshire Cat and her brother does not need to worry about his allergy.  Brilliant and thanks to my friend for giving me two fabrics.
Oh, and remember this I made for Ellie's birthday

She wore it on Christmas Day and I have been asked to make another one, exactly the same for L in Kent.  As I only have a pattern for a 7 year old she will have to wait until next January, so I have a year to make it - phew!!