Monday, 13 April 2009

Cotswold Farmhouse Memories

(our 'new' house, forty years ago)

In my other blog (Wild Somerset Child), I referred to our 16th century farmhouse and the fact that this year we celebrate 40 years of reclaiming the house and garden, which has been a joint labour of love, and is still ongoing. To celebrate these years since our purchase in 1969, I am creating a fabric book of words, photos, poems, papers, memories and bits and pieces of this old place, plus a little of its history. This blog will record how the idea came to me; in future postings I will detail its making, bit by bit. As always with my art projects, I am keeping a journal of sketches and notes on my thought processes, and the techniques I use.

Serendipity occurrence: Do you ever feel that, out of the blue, you take a great creative leap forward? Something out of the commonplace occurs; you are no longer a stranger to yourself, with projects and techniques seething in your mind, half-fulfilled. Such a moment of serendipity occurred to me a couple of weeks ago; I was not seeking inspiration, but suddenly it presented itself to me.

Metaphoric journey: It was as if I had been trying for the last four years to cross a broad, fast-flowing river, on giant stepping stones. At times I have fallen in, been wedged between dry vantage points, just keeping my head above water. Sometimes jumping to the next stone, more often gingerly easing myself forward from one to the next. The magazine ‘Cloth Paper Scissors’ has been part catalyst – I have bought it from issue one, and since then have been searching for my own voice. So much (materials and ideas) was new to me; I had so much to learn of the mixed-media world.

The river in full spate

Slippery rocks to catch the unwary

Giant stepping stones (a leap into the unknown)

and a bridge to take one over the water, to new adventures

Eureka! And then quite by chance, I reached the other side; climbed a high hill, saw a way forward. 

There  at last !! - and end of metaphor

(These pics are to me symbolic of my journey; they were taken last summer in the upper Dart valley and on part of Dartmoor, whilst we were working on a magazine article that has 
just appeared in the current issue of  'Practical Caravan' magazine.)

My creative treasures glow all around me - though I must admit that some are still half-finished, stuffed into jute bags and innumerable boxes. Suddenly I realise that all I have been practising and assimilating can be brought together in a vision that came to me as I tidied my work-room and re-organised my ‘stuff’ after the booklet project (please see last two postings).

I now know where I am going …. the path lies ahead, and it’s all connected to this house, this garden, our beloved home – the springboard to my creativity. I have a visual story to tell and began that very afternoon, two weeks ago; and it felt so good.

The back of our house and barn as bought, in 1969.

Part of the reclaimed garden (my potager) in 1991/92
(It's now on its third reincarnation)

Other projects will of course insert themselves but this celebration will bring together so many aspects of our life together. I will continue to tackle new techniques, but will also include sewing skills and other things I learned so many years ago. So to a certain extent this 'fabric memory book' will be a child's primer, an embroiderer's sampler. I am trying to do a little bit each day so that I continually move forward - and will report my progress by-and-by.

Here are the first notes I made in my layout notebook - click on them to see them full size. They may not make much sense initially as I was thinking on the page, jotting down my thoughts, holding an early brainstorming session with myself.

I am taking it gently, but do so hope you will enjoy following my journey - and I truly welcome all comments, thoughts and advice; positive or negative. 


  1. Thankyou Kelley - that part of the garden is now history; I loved it as it was then which is why it will go into the fabric book; but things change. It will have its third transformation next year - though you should have seen it four years before the photo was taken when it was a rubbish dump and housed chickens!

  2. Ann, I loved your metaphoric story and lovely pictures of the rocks and countryside and your home and garden! Here's a very inspiring book I borrowed from our local NeedleArt Guild - 1997 UK - Gardening with Silk and Gold, A History of Gardens in Embroidery by Thomasina Beck - wonderful pictures and ideas. Also look thru Spirit Cloth's blog and her "What if" site for more stitching inspiration. You have a lovely idea for a fabric/mixed media book... I am continuing to practice stitching on a piece of linen that I intend to turn into a book too, seems I am doing hearts and flowers... Can't wait to see how your project evolves.

  3. Heartfire - thankyou so much for your kind comments, and for reminding me of Thomasina Beck's beautiful book which sits on my workroom shelf. I am into brain-failure and forget where I am some days! But you have also reminded me of many of my earlier needlework projects (when I could also see properly!) and they were all connected with gardens, so I will ferret them out and see what I can incorporate. Ann.

  4. Wow I have just started a journal a bit like yours- in fact our writing is the same!!

  5. Clare W - best of luck with your journal. Ann.

  6. ....your house and garden have chocolate box beauty...I would love to visit in person...but the next best thing will be seeing the pages of your journal unfold...I wait in anticipation for the next always H

  7. Cocoa and blankets - how was you week in Venice? If ever you are down this way .... please let us know. I am now working a little on my pages every day; one baby step at a time. A.

  8. Hello again Ann, I was thinking again about your journal and one idea I have had on the burner is to make a fabric book with "pages" made of stitchery samples I have made in past that sit loose in they would be better displayed in a way. As I see above that you were going to go look for your earlier stitching to do with gardens, some might well be made into "pages" in your journal, what a keepsake and treasure for your family!

  9. What a lovely idea - and thankyou, Heartfire. I was toying with a similar thought only yesterday when I 'found' a half-completed needlepoint knot garden I had designed that would make a complete page. But, if I include my artifacts, I would have to find some way of incorporating all that Raymond has done - the whole house! And his beautiful furniture, and the treasures he has made me. The project lengthens - always my problem! 'His' pages would be a testimony to achievement, 'mine' would demonstrate that I frequently leave things in a half-finished state. I am asking myslef why ?

  10. Your potager is stunning! I long for one as lovely and lush as this one. I'll be looking forward to watching your create your fabric journal.

  11. Pattie T. - thankyou for saying this about my potager. I wish it still looked that way - but 1991/2 (when I took the pic) was a long time ago and it has changed since then. I still love that photo of how it once was; it is now a series of six 8ftx4ft herb beds that all need a makeover, as does the rest of the garden. I am working at the moment on bed 6 (top left hand corner. The pic as it was will go into the fabric memory journal I am making; pics of the reclamation will also go in. Five years of neglect (whilst we have been reclaiming parts of the house/barn) have taken their toll, of the garden and physically and mentally. Yet still we go on.

  12. I can almost feel your joy and I understand your sense of finding your way. The home and garden is lovely and I'm going to enjoy your journal as you produce and post it.


  13. Beautiful photos and words about places with such rich history...thank you for sharing these.