I’ve spending more time than I ordinarily would with my stitching. Normally I try to spend the day typing at my computer, and the evening stitching, but I’ve had a week off.

Well, I say a week off – it’s not like I have a busy social or professional calendar at the moment – but away from my computer. I’ve been busy binge-watching The Good Wife on Netflix. It’s the mark of a good story, I think, if it can get you so sucked into it that your normal life has to be suspended, whether on paper or on screen, until you get to the end.

I wasn’t sure what to expect of The Good Wife before I started watching. And then I watched it, mostly out of curiosity, and I was hooked. So the stitching got a boost. It probably helped that I’m at a sticky spot in my writing anyway, and I’m still working my way out, so I was in the right sort of mood to be distracted.

Mists of Time: Knut the Great

The Viking Age period began with sporadic incursions and ended with full-scale invasions.

Fifty years before Harald Hardrada, the last Viking, died at Stamford Bridge, a Nordic invasion took the throne of England. This year, 2016, is the 1000th anniversary of that conquest.

Knut of Denmark was the son of Sweyn Forkbeard and grandson of Harald Bluetooth, who had managed to oust Aethelraed in 1013. His mistake then was simply that Aethelraed was exiled, not killed, and when Sweyn died the following year, he came back. Knut, whose brother Harald inherited Denmark’s crown, was elected King by the Vikings and Norsemen of Danelaw, but the English nobility chose to bring Aethelraed back from exile.

Knut, returning to Denmark, marshalled his forces and returned for invasion in 1015. Lots of battles were fought for over a year, with Aethelraed’s men led by his son Edmund Ironside.

And then, in April 1016, Aethelraed died. Edmund kept fighting, but Knut defeated him that October. Didn’t kill Edmund, but they came to an agreement, dividing England into Danelaw (Knut’s) and Wessex (Edmund’s). Edmund died a month later. Maybe it was battle-wounds, maybe it was murder. Not quite sure, but Knut became King of all England. He was crowned at Epiphany 1017.

Six months later, he married Aethelraed’s widow Emma, and he used his base in England to build a North Sea Empire, taking Denmark when his brother died in 1018 and Norway in 1028 when Olaf of Norway’s jarls deserted him and he fled the field. Olaf was killed two years later in 1030 when he attempted to reclaim his crown. Knut also laid claim to parts of Sweden – as far east as Sigtuna.

Knut died in 1035, and his Empire broke up. Within ten years, England was ruled again by the House of Wessex, by Edward the Confessor, son of Aethelraed and Emma.

Project Update: Free as a Bird

At the beginning of this year, in the hopes of keeping myself organised and on track with my ideas for this blog, I got myself a diary to plan what happens when. According to said diary, today is scheduled to be a progress report on my February project, with the finished piece at the end of the month.

Well, I have to re-plan the last one. The Progress Report is that I managed to finish it faster than anticipated. The stitching, anyway. I’ll frame it at a later date. When I have a frame.

Free as a Bird

I’m beginning to like stitching on linen. I like the suppleness of the fabric. Less keen on how easily it creases, but hey – can’t have everything. Hopefully I’ll have it up by the time the real swallows are returning. Until then, it can be a gentle reminder that Summer is coming.

Having completed the project that was supposed to take me all month, I’ve found myself a much longer-term project. One to do in between the monthly ones, since I doubt this will be the only time I finish early. One I’ve been wanting to do for a while (nearly a year – it’s from CrossStitcher 290: last April) , but was put off by how long it was supposed to take – 69 hours.


Every writer needs their typewriter – and I’ve finally found a use for some gold-flecked aida! For my own sanity and counting, I’ve decided to do the back-stitched letters as I finish each key. I’ve already discovered I was following the wrong line as the centre, so it’s all ten squares out. Fortunately there’s more than enough fabric so it doesn’t matter (and such a relief! I really didn’t want to have to unpick and re-stitch!).

Lost for Words: Love

Now, normally, I’m the unsentimental variety who doesn’t do anything for the fast-approaching “holiday” that is St. Valentine’s feast-day. I don’t think a smidgeon of romance on one day because the commercially-minded tell us to is worth forgetting about it the rest of the year.

However, with all that in mind, while I was meandering through the OED, I  happened across the verb ‘to love’, and thence to the noun.

I once had a discussion with a more linguistically minded friend, and we came to the conclusion that the verb ‘to love’ should, grammatically speaking, be: First Person Plural Present Tense and a couple of other things I can’t now remember, and I can’t find the scrap of paper I wrote it down on. I forget how verbs are analysed grammatically. That was never my forte.

What I like about the word ‘love’ is that it has cognates in most Indo-European languages. The same base in languages from the Germanic to Latin to Sanskrit, with (almost) the same meaning in each – of feeling affection or being pleasing or being agreeable.

The Sanskrit root lubh- apparently originally meant something along the lines of ‘to be confused’. Which, to be fair, probably isn’t too far wrong, given all the songs and whatnot about love being confusing, and fools in love and so on. Sanskrit later gave it the meaning everyone else had, of feeling desire or affection. I think it should have stuck to its guns one the whole confused thing, although it did chuck greed into the later definition. Which, I suppose, is fitting for the modern Valentine’s Day, at least as far as the retailers go…



Marking Your Place

Birthday Bookmark

It’s nice to take time away from larger projects to do little, one-evening, projects. A breather, if you will, and because of other Life things, like people’s birthdays. And I’ve come to the conclusion that if I’m going to be making birthday cards, I’m going to need to gather stickers and stuff to decorate. Otherwise the pretty cross-stitch will be surrounded by my not-very-good scribblings…

A House Without Books

According to American politician and educational reformer Horace Mann, a house without books is like a room without windows. (The rest of that quotation makes me suspect that he would cry child abuse at any parent without books in the house.)

To the Roman politician Marcus Tullius Cicero, it was even more dire, comparing a book-less room to a body without a soul.

Not everyone is in the fortunate position of having books in every room, but I do agree with Mann: every house should have books. It’s no secret that I’m a bookish sort of a person; if I could, I would have bookshelves on every wall, and when I win the lottery, my house will have a proper library. I am very attached to my books. I have to really dislike a book to banish it from my collection.

Tomorrow is National Library Day. It’s supposed to encourage people to join their local libraries and support them against local council cuts. I agree, I haven’t heard of it before, either. But I think it’s a good idea.

For those who can’t afford new books, for those who haven’t the space to keep vast numbers of books, for those who simply like books, the local library is an excellent resource. It’s usually free to join, and you have access to the entire collection, and they can generally order in any specific book you want but which isn’t on their shelves. You can try out new authors without having to actually buy a book you’re not sure about. And being a member of the library gives you access to their online resources as well, including that wonder of wonders the OED Online.

Now I’ll admit, me trying to keep all the libraries open isn’t entirely altruistic. Don’t get me wrong, I think everyone needs such an access to books, but there’s something else. You see, I collect library cards. Wherever I live, I join the local library service. One day, I’d like to be able to create a map of the UK in library cards. But mostly, I just like having library cards.

Library Cards

February Project: Free as a Bird

Having made it through January (how did that happen so quickly?!), I’m now beginning that Resolution to complete one large cross-stitch pattern each month. In between also stitching birthday cards, and this year, I’m going to start the Christmas ones a bit sooner. Honest.

But anyway. My first project of the year is a rainbow swirl of swallows from CrossStitcher 293. It’s a little early, I know, for swallows to be returning, but I like them. Swallows make me think of sitting outside in the summer, watching them flying (or learning to fly) about catching the evening midges and other insects.

And I like rainbows. They are aesthetically very pleasing.

Rainbow Swallows

Fortunately I already had most of the threads, and the linen I found in a nice fabric-shop in a nearby town. Even more fortunately, the linen’s 28 count (I still haven’t checked what the IKEA one I use is). It’s really quite a nice fabric to stitch.

Allegedly I only require 20 hours to complete this. Not too long.

By my reckoning, there being about 28 swallows in all, that’s one a day. Of course, with the smaller ones, I’ll do one or two (as you can see, I’ve already eagerly done three), but even so. This will be easily completed by the end of February. I doubt the rest of my projects will be so easy…