Saturday, April 11, 2015

Every Poppy a Life

I'm sure that you will recall  these vivid images from The Tower of London late last summer and fall!  There was a monumental art installation to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War One.  Back then, it was not called  World War One, but  The Great War.  The war to end all wars. (They didn't know a second terrible war was yet to come, and others after that.)

It was called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red and the artist responsible was Paul Cummins.  Each poppy represented a British or Colonial serviceman who died 1914-1918.  The ceramic poppies were stamped from clay, shaped by hand, and fired in a kiln....then spray painted the familiar brilliant red of poppies.   Secured to a stake with rubber grommets, each one of the 888, 246 were placed by hand in the surrounding area around the Tower walls in what is (was) the moat.  

I have placed a few interesting links through the post that you might like to browse if interested.

{Interesting note: This moat area was also tilled up and made into a vegetable garden during World War Two to provide food}

I'm sure the white stone Tower walls are no stranger to blood and pageantry. Note the arrow slits in the tower walls for defense by archers.

Very visually striking display!  There was even an arch of poppies over the main walk into the Tower grounds.

What staggers the mind is the sheer volume of poppies, or servicemen who died....

As viewed by air...

Bruce had a great uncle Charles Herbert Harvey who died at Vimy Ridge in 1915 at age twenty eight. I had two grandparents who served, and survived, World War One.  My grandfather Owen Way (1896-1962) and Emma (nee Worden) Way (1898-1980)

My Nana served at Kingsnorth Airship Base where they brought in the large airships. There was a book written on the base last year and I was able to submit my grandmother's  information and picture to add to the pages of service people at the base. { Kingsnorth, Kent, became an airbase for fighter planes during World War Two}

Subsequent family members were no stranger to the Tower of London either.  My paternal grand parents lived in a few areas of Kent and finally London. Below is my grandfather Reginald Waterfield holding an infant son Frank, who is my Dad.  They are standing at an iron railing by the Tower of London, circa 1931-1932.   Grand Dad was an old time plasterer and did the wall and ceiling decorations in many stately manor homes around the south of England. His wife, my Nana, was in domestic service at a manor and this is how they met. Not really 'Downton Abbey' but perhaps the poor man's version!

It just so happened that in late July, early August last year my brother and his fiance Jacquie were in London as they were just beginning to set out the poppy installation.  Here's a photo taken by Kent of one side of the Tower of London.... and around the corner the poppies were just starting to be laid out to create the walking paths. 

We decided to purchase  a poppy last September and then we had a very long, long wait. The poppies were left in the moat until Remembrance Day,  November 11th, 2014 and the services held for the fallen.  The people wanted the poppies to stay longer and some even wanted it to be permanent!  But the next day the dismantling began. One by one they were collected dismantled from the their stakes and trays loads of flowers went through a washing and drying process. Packing and parceling up and then posted to all parts of the world. We just received ours last week!

Opening the box started the display instantly! The entire liner of the box is meant to frame the experience of your commemoration poppy and start the story right away.  (wonderful design concept!)

There is a certificate of authenticity...

... and a wonderful brochure of the entire anniversary event. 

The interior allows for three poppies but there was our one nestled in bubble wrap and its own little cubby hole in the centre.

The poppy is a substantial size and the red paint coating is quite thickly applied. Just some spots where it rested to dry. But when you consider the sheer numbers made, fired and painted, the quality is amazing.  The black rubber centre pieces also come along if you wish to mount it.

Then I saw our extra bit of history!   The flowers stood out doors in wind, sun and rain for months and so were washed and dried.....but some small bits of Tower of London grass still clings to the edge of the petal!

We won't be washing or removing this!

The day the poppy arrived, we received this email from  Blood Swept Lands and Red Seas: (there was a lovely picture and logo at the top but I removed that in case of copyright)

We are absolutely delighted to announce that the ceramic poppies from the installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red have all been sold.

To date over 860,000 poppies have been delivered to their new owners. We are making the final few UK deliveries over the next week, with all international deliveries expected to be completed by the end of April.

A project of this size and scale has been both rewarding and challenging. We are grateful for your patience while the poppies were being delivered.

Each of the service charity partners has received a staggering £1.2m and you can find out here how they are already using this money to help their causes. We anticipate that this figure will rise even further once we complete our accounts.

The project officially comes to a close on 10 April 2015 but further information and support, if required is available on the following links:
  • For information about poppy delivery, contact our delivery partner at this page.
  • For product information about the ceramic poppies and work by Paul Cummins, contact this email address.
  • For information about the Tower of London Remembers project, visit this page.
On behalf of the whole team and our charity partners we offer our heartfelt thanks for all your support.
Paul Cummins Ceramics Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red CIC

Historic Royal Palaces is an independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle.

Paul Cummins is an international ceramic artist with a passion for hand-making ceramic pieces inspired by nature. Over the last ten years Paul has worked on over 30 commissions, exhibiting all over the world.
Tom Piper has been Associate Designer for the Royal Shakespeare Company since 2004, and was closely involved in the redevelopment of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. His theatre credits include over 30 productions for the RSC, including the award-winning History series.

So, some of the money we paid went to charitable British Servicemen organizations. I have a cousin who served in the British Army and served in Bosnia and the first Gulf War.  We are very happy with all aspects of the Anniversary project.

Some extra links for you to cruise:
  • Take a video tour of the Tower of London
  • See how the poppies were made in this video   (see part way down the page.)
  • A photographic display of the dismantling of the project here 


Please meet my Dad, who was the little baby Frank being held by his Dad by the Tower of London.

... and here he is modelling his new silk / yak fine herringbone twill scarf, woven by me.

Sadly we have received medical word that Dad won't be with us for many more days or weeks as he transitions into most likely a hospice setting.   

I know you'll understand if I may not post very often for the next while as we visit and spend time with Dad and family, but I will continue to weave when I can as I find that calming.   Its a long eight yard  continuous warp for  2/2 twill plaid towels and I'll post about them once they are complete.

Monday, March 30, 2015


Yes... a weaving project to share with you! I finished the eight yard warp the day before we left to see our new grand daughter.  I cut it off and I must say that there is nothing as satisfying a a big fat roll of cloth sitting heavy in your lap as you enjoy the results of your labours!

Our time away was great but physically demanding for me with a deteriorated knee. I'm afraid it was bit much and so on returning home I went to take a step from the driveway to the path to the house and I felt something go in the knee and a jolt of pain.   So rest, ice packs and anti inflammatories have been the order of the day. X-rays showed no damage to bone so they suspect a meniscus tear.  So while it settles I worked on finishing the towels....

But lets back up a bit to the start....

I found the pattern in the Design Collection 16 on Kitchen Towels and its shown there as a bread cloth. There was something about it that really appealed to me. It must have been all the Vav magazines I have been scanning lately, especially one on stripes.  Scandinavian linens have such simple clean lines, bold colours and simplicity in their weave structure. Its uncomplicated.   So I entered the draft into my weaving program and modified it to suit my needs and searched for yarn in the stash. 

I have an interesting dilemma with my 8/2 cotton stash. I have one cone of this and a part cone of that.  Maybe two full cones of this colour but nothing to really go with it. A lot of yarn still but not really working together either in quantity or colour.   I had a lot of snowy white and natural beige. I felt that white would be too stark a contrast and so went with the natural.  My next choice was royal blue as I have a Denby dish set that compliments that shade.  The third colour was a khaki / green/ beige to be a soft intermediary between the two.

I used a 20 epi sett as that's good for both plain weave and the Swedish lace and made my warp twenty five and a half inches wide in the ten dent reed. Each towel was woven to a length of thirty four inches in total, so I had to work out various measurements of borders, striped cross section and the lace area in the centre. Its kept me busy keeping track!

I found that the draw in was quite pronounced right from the start and so quickly added a temple to the warp and I had to beat *very* firmly.   The cream plain weave actions went quickly with a nice fast pace and the cross stripes slowed me down to a crawl.   A nice balance!

After planned towel number seven I found I was looking at the back of the warp and not much of my planned twelve inches for samples and in fact not much of my twenty inches of loom waste either!  I had allowed for three extra inches for every one yard woven for take -up but it was much more than that in reality. I managed to eek out a small sample (with the only treadling error in the whole project no less!)

I serged the raw edges and washed in my washing machine.  Once out of the dryer I continued to serge them apart into seven separate towels and then steam pressed them.  I was double checking them for errors and such and to my surprise I found two of them had some strange stains on them.  See below: (it was hard to photograph but much darker and larger in reality!)

I had no clue as to what it was or where it had come from!  I never take drinks near my loom when I'm working. The dog (unlike cats) has not the slightest bit interested in the loom and I have no small children with sticky fingers here (yet). My Maytag washing machine has a stainless steel drum and my dryer is clean inside.   Bruce instinctively said "it wasn't me!"   :)

I kept them separate from the other five towels and thought if I couldn't get the stains out, then we would have two new towels for our kitchen instead of one.

I pressed and pined the hems with a neat double fold over  and did a running blind stitch to hem them. It gave me something to do while I rested on the couch, leg elevated and with a gel pack on my knee!

So here are the beauty shots.... and I must say I love them!  The plain weave turned out nicely and is a 50/50 balanced weave. The plaid sections are (mostly) squared, well, close enough for me!  The lace section in the middle is more of a nubbly texture which would make for great absorbency. Its also a nice contrast if used as a table centre or tray cloth. The lace doesn't pull and make little holes as in huck lace, being only four threads.

The lightness of lifting four shafts was easier on my knee.  It brought home to me that the simplicity of a four shaft project has all its own complexities to balance: even beat to maintain, selvedges that show up even more, uneven warp tension is less forgiving etc.....  so you still have to 'weave well'.

What's next?  I have decided to go with another four shaft project next to take it easy on the knee as it settles down but still keep it exercised.  My eight shaft project was bumped to next time if all goes well.

weavers knot
As a closing 'gift'... here's a simplified diagram of how to make a weavers knot. I found this on a Pintrest board and no identifying source to quote.   It looks much like a bowline I struggled to learn back in my sailboat days in the 1980's.  We used to say: The rabbit come up from the hole in the ground, goes around the tree and goes back down the hole.... but its exactly where it goes down that counts! In the wrong spot, the knot will fail and you can't undo it..... and in the right spot, it holds tight and can be undone.   Much like Life huh?

Oh.... The stains came out by the trace of them left and no fading of the three colours.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

An Amazing Eight Days!

Meet "Madison Ava" born March 10th, 2015 and weighed 8 pounds, 2 ounces. Yes, that's me cuddling her. She's a very calm and cuddly baby. When she sleeps, her whole body relaxes. Some newborns still stay clenched with arms and legs folded up. Not this little girl!

This was our first peek at her on her actual birth  day. The hat looks large on here there but its only three to four inches across and is *very* tiny!

We headed over to meet her and see Ethan this past Friday.  Bruce fell in love with one look! 

Okay,  maybe Nana fell hard too with my first cuddle. We are working on a burp here!

Everything is so brand new!

Then there was Ethan, who will be three in April. He is the complete opposite of his calm sister! Constantly on the move, constantly talking in full sentences, and with intermittent shrieks!

Ethan is also train crazy.  This pleases Grandad Bruce, a retired locomotive engineer, to no end! We gave him one toy Thomas the Tank engine way back when he was first born.  Then his parents surrounded him with many other toys and play centres, but he found that train and hasn't looked back since! Here we are giving him a new stool with a train on it. He can now get closer to the sink wash his hands or help with the dishes. 

He watches Thomas the Tank on the iPad. The only time he's quiet outside of his bed at night I might add.

....or sits on the couch and watches Thomas the Tank and his Friends on the big screen TV....

.....or better still, you play train crash with Grandad!  Grandad's train fell down the hill in what must have been the worse crash of Bruce's railway career!

Ethan took me upstairs to show me his room and also to show me Madison's tree:

Soft dove gray with pink accents and little dragon flies. I found a little pink onesie with a dragon fly and also bibs and little soft shoes with dragon flies. Then there was the blanket I wove this past October.... two links to view:   here and here.  This used to be our guest room when we came to stay. We had a quiet hotel room to withdraw to at night instead this time. {But we were rudely woken *early* every morning by running children in the room directly above our heads every morning!  Quite the joke huh? }

The blanket finally made its final destination and put to use right away.  That makes a weaver feel good!

Also in the last eight days, to add to the joy,  my long time bachelor brother announced he and his lady are now engaged! No date set as yet.   Then my daughter  got married this past Friday in Colorado!  She and her new husband live in the Denver, Colorado area.   Then finally, my dear Dad is being released from hospital today after being admitted in January.  His situation was touch and go for awhile, so going home again must feel very sweet!

All that's missing is the lottery win...... but I think we already have done that!