Elizabeth

One thing I really enjoyed about the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Ocean Liners exhibition, was seeing new, and unexpected, works by 20th century artists I’d long admired.

Take Edward Ardizzone, (1900-1979). I knew him as a children’s book illustrator but didn’t know that the P & O Line had commissioned him to produce three large murals for the first class children’s playroom on board the Canberra in 1960-61. This is a detail from one of them.

Left hand side of Edward Ardizzone’s ‘Canberra’ mural

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Earlier this week I was invited to the preview of the new blockbuster exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum: Ocean Liners: Speed and Style. If you want a bit of luxury and glamour – and who doesn’t? – this is a must see exhibition. So this week I’m inviting you to come with me back to the glory days of the Ocean Liner and let me take you on a luxury five day London to New York trip – no expense spared.

Cunard poster

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It’s been a chilly, damp week and I’m longing for a bit of sunshine, so today I’m revisiting sunny Sardinia, a fascinating island, full of interest. And it’s a beautiful country, especially up in the mountains.

View at Serra Orrios. Note the cork oak with its bark stripped in the foreground

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This is one of my favourite objects in the British Museum. It’s an automaton of a nef, that is, a model of a galleon, the state of the art ship of the 15th-16th centuries which epitomized European power and expansion at the time. The model shows an ungainly-looking vessel whose massive sails are furled, and with its foremast, a main mast and mizzen mast sticking up with the crows’ nests awkwardly curled round them.

Gilded copper and iron nef, c.1585, 90 cms high from the port side.

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When I was eleven, I was sent to Boarding School, a horrific experience which I try not to think about, but there was one thing I learnt which has proved really useful, and that was Sewing. We only did it for one year, but it covered all the basics, including darning.

It’s now winter and I feel the cold. I have several jumpers and cardigans which I rely on to keep me warm. I’ve had them for years and I love them all but they are beginning to show their age and holes are beginning to appear. My darning skills are needed!

My Orkney jumper by Judith Glue

Take my Orkney jumper. My mother bought it for me when we visited Judith Glue’s shop in Kirkwall in the Orkneys in 1996. It has five rows of runes along the top, which read ‘Orkney’, a row of Pictish birds underneath, then a row of stylized waves, followed by rows of triangles in browns and greys. It’s incredibly warm.

Judith Glue lives and works in the Orkneys, and mine is one of her runic designs.

Darning the elbows

Unfortunately, as you can see, holes developed at the elbows and I’ve had to darn them. They are not perfect but at least they tone in with the pattern – well, that’s what I tell myself.

Dealing with the moths

Then I noticed that moths had nibbled at the bottom of the ribbing at the front. I’ve over sewn it and mended a tiny hole in between the two heather-coloured triangles. There were at least six tiny moth-holes which are too small to darn. Fortunately, Shetland wool is thick and I’m hoping my repairs don’t show.

My Welsh jumper

I’ve had my Wendy Lawrence jumper which for at least twenty years – I bought it in a Charity shop in Harlech in Wales for £5. It’s a thing of beauty and I can’t imagine how anyone would want to get rid of it. I absolutely love it and it even warmer than the Orkney jumper. It’s so thick that, so far, it doesn’t need darning.

Dealing with the seams

But it’s beginning to come apart at the seams. You can see – just – where I’ve over sewn the arm seam with thick black wool.

Multi-coloured stripy cardigan, Gap, 2007

I love this cardigan, too. It’s 100% lambs’ wool and not as heavy as the two jumpers. The sleeves are three-quarter length and I wish the cardigan was an inch or so longer but it’s still a very useful garment as it goes with almost anything. However, both elbows developed holes which I’ve repaired by cutting a large suede patch in half, cutting out a suitably-sized template and creating two patches, one for each elbow. I’ve folded one sleeve over for the photo so that you can see that, from the front, the patches don’t show at all – probably just as well!

Repairs under the arm

It, too, is beginning to come apart at the seams and I’ve had to over sew where the underarm sleeve meets the rest of the cardigan. It’s an awkward place and I chose cream wool on purpose so that I could see exactly what I was sewing. Fortunately, I don’t go around with my arms raised so it doesn’t show.

Gap cardigan sleeve seam repair

I’ve been keeping my eye on Gap’s new season cardigans but unfortunately, at the moment, they are going in for sparkly stripes and too many colours with yellow in them, neither of which suit me. So I’m using such sewing skills as I have and hoping that fashion will move on.

James Pringle of Inverness 100% wool cardigan

Lastly, there’s my 100% lambs’ wool navy cardigan which I bought in Fort William. Again, it’s very warm and I wear it a lot in winter. However, I’ve recently noticed a hole in one of the sleeves (I’ve put a bit of card inside the sleeve so that you can see it), and the other sleeve is also thinning at the elbow. They will have to be darned.

Navy darning wool and my darning mushroom

I went into my local department store which has a small  haberdashery compartment and said to the girl at the counter, ‘I’m looking for navy darning wool.’ She looked bewildered. ‘What’s darning wool?’ I explained but it was obvious that she didn’t really know what I meant.

I eventually found some but I felt like a relic of a long-vanished past. Am I the only person who still darns?

The garments look huge in the photos, I don’t know why. They are all size M.

Elizabeth Hawksley

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The importance of precedence is a major theme in Jane Austen’s last novel Persuasion, and this post looks at the ramifications of this. Persuasion’s opening scene shows Sir Walter Elliot’s perusal of the Baronetage, the most important book in his library, which charts the lineage of the Elliot family from its first mention in Sir William Dugdale’s Baronetage of England (1675-6) to Sir Walter’s own entry in the 1790s.

The Importance of the Family Tree

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Mr Little’s auction house, Barnard Castle, Co. Durham. I am about eight and I spot an interesting-looking orange book on an old table. It is Little Women. I pick it up and show it to my mother who says in surprise,  ‘Haven’t you read it?’ I shake my head. She takes the book and marches off to find Mr Little; two minutes and half-a-crown later, the book is mine.

My copy of ‘Little Women’ by Louisa May Alcott

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Power dressing is not a modern phenomenon, as the new exhibition Charles II: Art and Power at The Queen’s Gallery amply shows.

King Charles I by Edward Bower, 1649

The exhibition opens with Edward Bower’s remarkable portrait of King Charles I at his trial before the High Court of Justice in the Great Hall of the Palace of Westminster in January 1949. It is obvious that the King knows exactly how to convey his contemptuous refusal of the court’s right to try an anointed king. He sits on a red velvet armchair – and refused either to stand or to take off his hat – his accusers were not his equals and he didn’t owe them any courtesy. His hat is tall, wide-brimmed and visible; it must have been carefully chosen to make the maximum impact.

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I’ve always had a soft spot for Charles II (1630-1680). I know he is often thought of as a lascivious, extravagant king, always short of money and having running battles with Parliament. I see him rather differently. Partly because, I confess, I find him a very attractive man; I know this shouldn’t affect a rational view of him 337 years on, but there we are.

  1. Charles II by John Michael at his coronation. He wears King Edward’s crown and holds the newly made orb and sceptre. 

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