Monday 26 June 2017

Somebody Throw Me A Lifeline!

This is my first attempt at proper lace knitting.  Although I have made garments with a lace design in the past, I've never knitted with such a fine yarn.  

I saw this pattern for a lace shawl in the January issue of Simply Knitting magazine.  It was called 'Sweet Lilac' and described as a pattern which was suitable for a first attempt at knitting a lace shawl.

I'm not sure that I would describe it as an easy introduction to lace knitting - it is a wonder that I'm still working at it, as it required four attempts to set the pattern and to keep the correct number of stitches. 

I spent a lot of time 'frogging' ('rip it, rip it!') and I learned the importance of life lines.  In theory, these are used to mark a line of pattern which is correct - somewhere to return to without having to start from scratch.  Still, I'm making (slow) progress, so I must be improving.  I'm looking forward to /can't wait to start the more complicated lace design from the charts...

The finished design can be seen here and the yarn used is DROPS Lace - a gorgeous blend of baby alpaca and mulberry silk.

Saturday 24 June 2017


Tunnock's tea cakes ~ a little taste of home.

I've been enjoying Call the Midwife, which is set in St Nonnatus House.  Saint Raymond Nonnatus was gift which I received some time ago after attending a birth. 

Dipping into Cider with Rosie.  For some reason, I've never read this book before.  The prose is delightful and I was transported to another world.

Another hygge book from the library.  How to Hygge by Signe Johansen has some wonderful recipes for creating those hygge moments at home.

I Would Walk 500 Miles

It is three months since I posted an update on my 1,000 mile challenge, but I have not been idle.  I've settled into a routine now and have been averaging 25 miles per week.  I achieved a major milestone when I reached the half-way point on 26th May - 500 miles walked, which is a significant achievement.

There have been days when it has been an effort to get out and walk but, for the most part, I've been glad that I have done so and enjoyed being outdoors.  I feel fitter than I have done in a long time and there are definite psychological benefits too - walking calms my mind and reduces life's anxieties.

If you haven't tried it, I highly recommend doing so.  There is now a 500 Mile Challenge for those who don't feel able to do 1,000 or have left it too late to complete the longer challenge.  This equates to 2.72 miles per day.  Get your boots on and give it a go!  Here's a song to encourage you to get moving.

Saturday 17 June 2017

Erland Lee House - Part 3

As I mentioned in my first post about Erland Lee House, it is the birthplace of the Women's Institute, whose motto is 'For Home and Country'.  This photo is part of a quilt which hangs in the red Carriage House, adjacent to the home.  I forgot to take a photo of this building and the light in the Carriage House was too poor for any good photos, especially as the quilt is behind glass.

So back to the dining room, which is the focal point of the site's history because it was here that the Constitution and Bylaws of the first Women's Institute were hand-written by Janet Lee, with assistance from her husband, Erland Lee and two local politicians.

But before we get to this, we need to retrace our steps to learn how this all came about.  I mentioned in an earlier post that Erland Lee worked to advance many progressive causes in Wentworth County.  He recognized the need for rural women to be educated, particularly in the domestic sciences.  He invited Adelaide Hoodless to speak at the Ladies' Night of the Saltfleet Farmers' Institute on 12th February 1897.  Adelaide was president of the local YWCA and taught domestic science.  Erland had heard Adelaide speak and her words had resonated with him when she asked, 'Is it of greater importance that a farmer should know more about the scientific care of his sheep and cattle, than that a farmer's wife shold know how to care for her family?' 

That night, she suggested forming a group to broaden the knowledge of domestic science and agriculture, as well as to socialize.  When she returned a week later, there were 101 women in attendance.  This group went on to form the first branch of the Women's Institute with Adelaide as its honorary president: within a decade, there were 500 branches across Canada.

Erland Lee used his family's influence in municipal government and in society to assist in the formation of the world's first rural women's organization and Janet Lee took on an organizational role within that Institute.  Much of the executive work of the WI was done within the Lee home. Erland and Janet Lee's daughter, Alice (Lee) Freel, became the first woman in Saltfleet Township to serve in the municipal government from 1926.  Erland and Janet's grandchildren preserved the family legacy when they sold the property to the Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario in 1972.

Thursday 15 June 2017

Erland Lee House - Part 2

Welcome to Erland Lee House!  Come inside.

As we enter through the green door, we find ourselves in the kitchen, which is the original one-room log cabin, built in 1808 by John Lee, the eldest son of James and Hannah Lee, who had arrived in Saltfleet Township in 1792.  (I didn't manage to get a view from the front door, as the guide was standing there, but there is a view from the other end below.). The stove is an original - I forget the brand, but it was locally-made - it provided all of the family's requirements for cooking, heat and hot water.  There is a drying rack above where herbs were hung to dry, which were later used to add flavour to their meals.  Any meat they had in winter would have been smoked to preserve it.

All water was carried from outside, which is hard to imagine in a cold Canadian winter.  In later years, a well was dug and water accessed through a covered hole in the floor.  This must have seemed luxurious when they no longer had to fetch water to the house for every household necessity.  Baths were far less frequent than today and there was a strict order of bathing, starting with the man of the house, then any grown sons, right down to the baby - hence the expression 'Don't throw the baby out with the bath water!'

The family's sleeping area was a loft above, originally accessed by a ladder.  The loft had very low headroom, so they would have crawled in and slept together for warmth.

The kitchen dresser is original and was made by James Lee - a fine piece of furniture for someone who was a farmer.  It contained the family's treasured possessions.  

 This view from the far end of the kitchen shows a sewing machine by the window and a large table for sharing meals.  The cabinet to the right was a later addition.

It was difficult to get a good photo of the china in the dresser, but this is of the period, but not originally belonging to the Lee family.  It was donated from the estate of L M Montgomery in Prince Edward Island - famous for Anne of Green Gables. 

As we move into the parlour, we also move through the generations.  James Lee and his son had farmed 200 acres of subsistence farming and then established fruit orchards - or possibly a vineyard.  The family's fortunes improved and John's son, Abram Lee, became a prominent Saltfleet politician, businessman and farmer in the 1860s.  He made two additions to the original log cabin, extending the footprint of the original house and then adding another storey.

Six generations of Lees lived in the home from 1808 until 1971.

Erland Lee as a prosperous farmer and he owned the house from 1890 until 1926.  He was involved with the community through the Farmers' Institutes and as a Saltfleet Township Clerk. He worked to advance many progressive causes in Wentworth County.

The organ in the corner was a treasured possession and source of entertainment for the family.  The parlour was a place where the children were allowed in, but only on their best behaviour, so there are some games on the hearth below.

Carpet bowls was considered a suitable game for the children to play, as it was quiet.  The room was carpeted, though the present carpet is not original.  

Women love a man in a red coat - just think of the Mounties!  I'm afraid that I don't remember the history of who wore this uniform, as there was just too much information on the tour.

As we move upstairs, we enter the bedroom of the daughters of the Lee family and see evidence of their American roots.  These quilts were gifts from their family in the United States - the first showing the Capitol Building

 - and the second, the American eagle.

 The pillows are Victorian and hand-sewn: 
'I slept and dreamt that life was beauty...

 ...I woke and found that life was duty.'

Out onto the landing and we see a framed mourning cross, which was made from human hair. 

In the main bedroom, a bed covered with a beautiful hand-sewn quilt, which was a gift to the museum. 

On the dresser, a mourning jar.  The women of the family combed their hair and collected the loose hair to store in this jar.  When there was a death in the family, a mourning piece was created from it.

And beside it, a tray containing button hooks, manicure tools and hair pins.

Also on the dresser is a vase containing numerous hat pins.  I was interested to learn that it isn't essential to have a bun when using a hat pin, but great care must be taken to weave the pin through the hair, in order to avoid stabbing oneself!

 A crib/cot in the corner would have been occupied most of the time, as women had one baby after another.  A woman's place was most definitely in the home.

On into the nursery and we see some of the dolls the girls would have played with.

And outfits they would have worn.

 Also an early example of a 'jolly jumper' which dates from the Victorian era.

This large day crib/cot is for visiting babies.  When women came to call, they would usually have a baby with them, so the babies were lined up in there - they were swaddled so tightly that there was no chance of escape!

The only other room on this floor was the boys' bedroom, but it was so dark in there that I didn't take any photographs.  This concludes my tour of the upper level.  Join me again in the next post as we move to the dining room and the history of the Women's Institute.

Sunday 11 June 2017

Erland Lee House

Last week, I had an opportunity to visit a place which has long been on my list.  Erland Lee House is now a museum and is a National Historic Site of Canada.  It is run by the Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario.  The reason for this is because this house was the birthplace of the Women's Institute.

The house sits on the Niagara Escarpment, which looks out across Lake Ontario.  This photo doesn't do it justice, as the view across the road is mostly obscured by vegetation.

A plaque commemorates the fact that the first Women's Institute started in this home when the constitution was drawn up in 1897.  The W.I. is now a worldwide organization.

This white and green Gothic Revival house did not look like it does today.  The Lees were United Empire Loyalists, with strong British connections, who left the United States in 1792 and settled in Canada, which was still governed by Great Britain.  Many United Empire Loyalists fled the United States prior to the War of 1812 (American Revolution), also settling in Canada. 

James Lee brought his Loyalist family to Saltfleet Township in what was then known as Upper Canada.  The Lee home was constructed in 1808 by James and Hannah Lee's eldest son, John after receiving land from his wife's family.  The original house was a log cabin of one room, with a sleeping loft above.

This plaque is adjacent to the front door, which is not in use today - in its day, it was only used to admit important visitors, such as the church minister.

The current home dates from 1873 when it was enlarged and a second floor was added.  Six generations of the Lee family lived in the home from 1808 until 1971.

My visit included a personal guided tour, which lasted far longer than I had anticipated (about 90 minutes).  Poor Mr Candytuft was waiting in the garden (his choice) and thought that I had been abducted!  It seems that all of the museum staff had stopped by to chat to him and told him that the volunteer guide could 'talk for Canada'!

The day was hot - the first of the summer, but with little breeze, I wasn't able to get a good photograph of the flags outside - from the left - Ontario flag, Women's Institute flag and the Canadian flag - unofficially known as the Maple Leaf.

As this was a long visit, with lots of photographs, I'm going to end this post and show you the interior of the house in a separate one.

Friday 9 June 2017

Did Somebody Mention Tea?

When I said that I was taking a blogging break, little did I realise that it would last quite so long.  I haven't been idle whilst I've been away - lots of baking, some sewing (mainly alterations) and a bit of knitting have been occupying my time.

Amongst all of this activity, frequent cups of tea have featured - always best enjoyed from my china teacup set.  

I am back, but I may not be around that frequently, as there is a lot happening at the moment.  We seem to have had a period of frenetic activity and now there is a hiatus of calm, but I know it won't last - more about the reasons in a future post.