Saturday, 27 February 2010

Add a Little Flower

From time to time Susie - our consummate reader of fiction - will review her favourite book of the moment (as her little sister I am inclined to follow her lead as her recommendations can generally be guaranteed). However if you are interested in joining something a little more organised, try Cornflower Books, a terrific on-line book "club" that allows you to read reviews and also comment on recommended titles.

To quote, their modus operandi is to....... "write an introductory post on the book which appears on a set day, then it's over to everyone else to have their say in the comments. The thread system means it is easy to make your own point or answer individually those made by other people, and there is no limit to how many times you can comment as the page remains open so that when you're struck by a crucial insight in the middle of the night you can come back and share it with us later!" It's a great way to get unbiased inside information on the latest and greatest and you'll soon find whose literary views are most in tune with your own.

We were recently in touch with one of our favourite book shops in the world, Daunt Books and they have kindly put together a list of suitable travel books for people planning to join us for one of our workshops. Definitely worth a gander (Daunt's list)
Daunts have survived the recent high street massacre and shown us the importance of good service, quiet surroundings and great selection when running a successful bookshop that punters actually enjoy visiting. Coffee shops and large open areas may suit some, but others of us are happier with the traditional alternative...

Friday, 26 February 2010

Back from the Big Smoke

Without much ado, I abandoned Carol to the vagaries of February in France and headed north towards more snow - just under a week in London and it feels like I have been away for months; in fact, almost as if I have returned from an alternative universe. The reason for the visit was a last minute wedding invitation (too complicated to explain) which happily coincided with the Hammersmith Vintage Clothing Fair. I have been meaning to pop over for this event - which normally takes place on the last Sunday of most months - for a long time now and, boy, do I wish I had made the effort earlier.
It is truly amazing and a must for all those interested in textiles. Not cheap by anyone's standards, but so full of wonderful clothes (mostly from the fifties and early sixties but from earlier as well) and fabrics that it is enough to make any reasonable girl cash in her pension and spend it all on one or two waist-cinching floral frocks that even Jane Mansfield might have considered OTT past the age of eighteen. Still, what do I care, living in the country surrounded by corn fields and cows.
And, of course, it isn't just the clothes that are irresistible (though you have to look a little harder and dig a little deeper); there are also oodles of hats and gloves and handbags and shoes and knitwear and much, much more to tempt the unsuspecting frau. Fortunately I arrived without my cheque book (no-one takes credit cards) and not too much in the way of cash, so I had to use a certain amount of discretion choosing between the myriad options to buy...

...and I did make two or three rounds before deciding on which purchases to make. It was during the third lap that I came across my "prize": an absolutely gorgeous 1930s hand-quilted cotton bed cover, which one of you lucky visitors might just find sitting on your bed when you arrive.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Springtime in Paris

It was with great excitement and anticipation, that we (Katie and Carol) left Verteillac at 5 am last Monday morning to catch the TGV train to Paris. Les Soeurs Anglaises were having a day out, off to L'Aiguille en Fete, a hall crammed packed with all of our favourite things! Never mind the astronomic prices of Parisien railway coffee - or rush hour on the metro - nothing could dampen our fever for the textile exhibition. This is the first "trade" fair that they have organised that runs for three days before they open their doors to the public.

We finally arrived at the 'Grande Halle de la Villette' on the outskirts of Paris just before ten, and having attached our name badges we rushed forth into the hall of wonderful sewing and knitting things. The first stall we came upon was Selvedge where we had a long chat with the lovely Gemma and bought a few of those past issues of the mag that we'd always craved. Moving along we were accosted by a veritable feast of colour and texture, with stalls from all over the world including craftwork from Korea.........
........Holland, UK, Ireland and further afield. There was definitely something for everyone, from very fine cross stitch work to wonderful wooden knitting/ crochet going up to size 27 needles!..... and we thought size 12 was big! And then there was the gorgeous alpaca wool (and men!) from Italy, Adriafil , from whom you can buy as little 10 balls.
There was new mixed with old, vintage with modern, big and small.
There was no point fighting it..... we had to make a purchase.... or more. Couldn't help ourselves with all that tempting vintage fabric - Millpoint ; and then back to the 'Antiquites Brocante' just in case we'd missed something irresistable first time round - sadly they have no website, but worth a visit to the fair on its own. Many hours later and with purses much lighter, exhaustion began to take it's toll and we had to drag ourselves away to make the long trek homewards, (thank goodness we'd brought the suitcase, now cram packed with goodies).
Home in the dark but with renewed inspiration to get making. Our only regret was that Paris is just that little too far to return for the "punters' day later in the week, when we understand there were to be even more on offer for the enthusiastic stitcher..
WOW! what a day we had!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Meet the Stars

I've just come across Gwyneth Paltrow's website Read about it somewhere and had my doubts, but it is actually a very interesting site with delicious and easy to follow cooking instructions and various other well researched and well written subjects. It seems Miss Paltrow is mad about healthy organic food and has presumably put a lot of money (and her credibility) into creating this website. Good for her, and definately worth a look:

And if you are looking for delicious recipes and fabulous photographs of food, try: Jewels of New York..... If we ever kick the kitchen in the converted barn into action I really want to get these girls over to give a cooking workshop. Can their food ever taste as good as the pictures promise, we wonder?

We'll try one or two and let you know.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Get on your Writing Workshop Horse.

Elmore Leonard is best known for his slick, amusing and ‘sassy’ thrillers. Less well known is that he started out as a writer of westerns – a genre much less popular today than the early decades of the 20th century. In my youth I was a great fan of the western - in particular of Zane Grey – but I had rather lost interest in this period and style of novel. However, when I came upon Elmore Leonard’s The Complete Western Stories, at my favourite bookshop Daunt, I couldn’t resist it if only to compare the two genres.

The Complete Western Stories (Orion Publishing Company, available second hand from for as little as £1.65) shows Elmore Leonard’s style and technique improving through the years (the book is compiled in date order). You can immediately appreciate how his later thrillers evolved from the characters and situations in his westerns – and became novels instead of short stories. It is possible to see the content and style being honed and it is a pleasure to read about heroes and villains who make your imagination work and are neither facile nor simple. It is immaterial that the stories are set in a time and place not known to the modern reader. My only reservation is his depiction of female characters are not as developed or certainly aren’t as interesting as they are in his thrillers. Nevertheless treat yourself bearing in mind that, like a lot of short stories compilation, it is a book to dip into not read in one go.