Monday 28 September 2015

Will Sidney's War - February 1918 - Day to Day Life on the Italian Front Line

There haven't been any photos of Will or Ethel in my posts for a while now and I thought it would be nice just to remind you of what they both looked like.

Will's diary for January has no entries at all, though the Battalion war diary shows plenty of activity including training, drills and relief for the front line, as can be seen from the two excepts from the official Battalion war diary below ....
"5th - 12th Bn in the line. During this period in spite of snow and exceptionally cold weather several attempts were made by patrols to cross the river and to reach the enemy's line but owing to the swiftness of the stream its depth and the lack of any chart, no crossing could be effected for some time. Towards the end of our tour in the front line however 2/Lt Flory with a patrol succeeded in definitely locating a sufficiently shallow spot in each stream to enable a continuous crossing to be made and this route has been definitely established. On the first occasion of a patrol crossing the entire bed of the river it was heavily fired upon by a post and withdrew but this post as was ascertained later was removed to a position further East."
"21st - 31st Bn in the line. This period has been distinguished for the great deal of work done in the connection with the improvement and strengthening of our trenches and dug outs also for the nightly patrols. Officers & men have been continuously practised in patrol the river bed at night and the negotiable spots of the various streams have been pointed out to each officer and man. Enemy posts have been engaged but we have suffered no casualties up to date. A miniature range has been built and every man has been trained and practised with the rifle whilst the promotion of Inter Company and Inter Platoon Competitions has interested and encouraged the men tremendously."
It is 4 February before we see Will's first entry in his 1918 diary, which is even smaller than the 1917 one ...
He tells us that he has put in for a month's leave, but no mention of when this might be and that it is his 5th year service anniversary on 8 February.
The writing in this diary is really tiny and hard to decipher in places, but I have done my best to transcribe Will's entries for the rest of the month.  You will see the likely reason for the entries only just beginning on 10 February ...
"10 Sunday - Church Parade @ 9.45.  Parade for football match 1.40pm.  Got a letter & this book & answered it.  God bless her."
"11 Monday - Travelled from Biadene to support to the French @ Possagno.  Att to KRRs for instructions in trenches."
"12 Tuesday - Rev 6, Brft 7.30.  Marched to reserve lines to look round & got all things down.  Went round all gateposts & viewing the wire."
"13 Wednesday - Br 8am.  Parade under our own officer & went to view front line & outposts for information.  Went for a stroll up Mt Tomba  Writ to Ethel.  Bless her."
"14 Thursday - Rev 6, B8.  Started for the top of Mt Tomba @ 9.45.  Landed on top @ 12.45 mapping view of Austrians line of V???? and two other villages.  Can't get a letter off now as with another Batt."
"15 Friday - Rev 6, Parade 9.  Went round the outposts & got back @ 12.  Packed up & marched to Crespano for new billets.  Snowing very heavy.  Thinking of Ethel."
16 Saturday - Rev 6, B8.  Attached to the Middlesex Regiment.  Looking at scouting round for the nearest way to work.  No letters from anyone." 

"17 Sunday - Batt joined us @ 12.45am.  They all looked very tired.  Heavy marching, wet underfoot, sludgey.  Answered Ethel's letter."
"18 Monday - Reveille 6, Break 8.  Clean everything up for inspection.  Parade 9.45am. Parade again @ 11.50am for clothes.  Rest after dinner until 4 o'clock. Tea @ 4.15pm. No letters from anybody.  Bed @ 6.30.  Billet inspection by CO 3pm."
"19 Tuesday - Rev 6.30, B 7.  Parade drill order for working party with REs @ 8.30.  Worked right through till 3 without meal.  Gave my paybook in for new rate of pay.  Letter from home with 2 letters off Ada & Minnie."
"20 Wednesday - Rev 6. B 8, Bath 8.30, Parade 9.30.  Monkey drill till dinner.  Letter from Rosie (Leeds).  Answered it, thanking her for cigs.  And one from Ma.  Took the platoon in P.J. & B.J."
"21 Thursday - Writ to Ethel.  Rev 6, B 7, Parade 8.15am for working party.  Break 12 till 1.  Finish 3pm.  Home @ 3.30.  Letter from Ma.  Answered it & wrote to Ethel. Bed @ 6pm.  Platoon under arrest for complaining."
"22 Friday - Rev 6, B 7.  Parade for working party @ 8.  Put on fire picket.  No news from anyone.  Thinking of darling Ethel.  God bless her.  Bed 6.30.
"23 Saturday -  Rev 6, B 7, P 7.45 for work with the REs in the red line.  Letter from Darling Ethel.  Rumours of moving.  No chance to write to her, Worst luck.  Bed every night @ 6.30pm.  Building parapets up, very tiring work.  Hill climbing & skirmishes galore."
"17 Sunday - No chance to answer Ethel's letter whilst on the move.  Rev 6, B 8, Church Parade 9.15.  General clean up of everything.  Kit inspection 2pm by the officer."
"25 Monday - Rev 6, B 7, Parade full marching order 7.30.  Left Veatta for Resen.  Landed @ 12.40pm.  Foot inspection 2 o'c.  Football match 3pm.  13914 v 15916 (4-1)."
"26 Tuesday - Rev 6.30, B 8, Parade 9.15 FM order.  Left Resen for Pederiva.  Landed @ 12.30pm, very tired.  Letter from Ethel & answered straight away.  God bless her, I wish she was here."
"27 Wednesday - Rev 5.30, B 6.  Parade battle order for 7.15 to fire on range.  Had dinner & tea there.  Got back @ 6.45pm.  Very tired, in bed by 7.  Thinking of my own darling Ethel.  Bless her."
"28 Thursday - Letter from darling Ethel, no chance to answer it.  Rev 5, B 7.15.  Parade 8.30 for gyms.  Dismissed 10.15.  Fall in for range @ 11.30.  Rotten day, very cold. Capt got us a parade @ 1/4 to 9 @ night ......"
"1 Friday - Rev 6, B 8, Parade battle order for 9 o'clock.  Went through Biadene to Pall Mall & there we practiced going over the top. Got back @ 1.30.  Bath 3.30."
"2 Saturday - Inoculated.  Rest for 48 hours.  Plenty of writing to do.  Spend all day writing to dearest Ethel, 21 pages.  Writ to darling Ethel a long letter with a cross from Mt Tamba.  Started writing from 2 o'c until 7 o'c."
We found this set of humorous postcards within Will's things.  We can only assume they were collected on his travels through Italy.  As usual he has included comments on the reverse for Ethel.
You can read more about Will's time in Italy in my next post.

Monday 21 September 2015

Will Sidney's War - December 1917 - The Italian Front Line

I have been so busy crafting over the last month or so that I've been very neglectful of Will Sidney's WW1 story.

I feel a bit guilty really as Will has pretty much been with me since I started my blog back in at the beginning of 2014 and I really do want to make it to the end of his story.

This is the 22nd post about Will and his WW1 journey, transcribed from his own personal war diaries and other mementos that we found amongst Martin's mum's things when she died back in February 2014.

If you are new to Will's story and want to find out more, or you want to refresh yourself on what has happened so far, you can find all of the posts covering Will Sidney's WW1 story here.

In my last post it was 3 December 1917 and Will and the 9th York & Lancs had just arrived at Ciano in Italy, following a 12 stage, 100 mile route march, to join the support line.

For that first week Will writes mainly of trench digging and it being a 'cosy front line'
"4 Tues - Rev 6.30, B 8, Parade 9.  Cleaning the ground up & digging trenches.  Cosy front line.  Paper from home.  Thinking of my own darling."
"5 Wed - Rev 6.30, B 8, Parade for digging trenches until 12.30.  Parade 2o'c for instructing A Coy how to ???  No news from home or anywhere."
"6 Th - Rev 6, B 8.  Digging trenches for shelter in case the billet got shelled.  Ciano front."
"7 Fri - Still on trench digging.  No news from home of my darling.  I wish I could get a letter from her."
"8 Sat - Still digging.  Went into the front line to dig some trenches for the KOYLIs."
The KOYLIs are the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. We found this picture of the KOYLIs in Will's things. When looking closely you can see that the plaque states that this is 'C Company 5th KOYLI'. There is nothing written on the reverse of the card so we are unable to tell when or where this picture was taken, so we can't be sure that it was in Italy, but thought it would be good to share all the same.
It seems that the following week was very much the same with Will writing of more trench digging, no news from home and the front line being "very different from Ypres".

On 21 December Will writes that  he was ... "Billeted in Montebelluna.  Took bad with influenza. In bed for the day."

On 22 December Will was ... "Still bad in bed .... wondering how Ethel is going to spend Xmas."

Christmas week 1917 and it sounds like Will is getting back on his feet.

 "23 Sun - Still in bed."
"24 Mon - Still in bed.  A little better but not much.  2 letters & 2 parcels from Ethel. 1 letter from home.  1 from cousin Annie.  1 from Elsie."
"25 Tues - Christmas Day - Big dinner - pork, roast potatoes, cabbage, apple sauce. Plum duff & rum sauce. Tea - boil ham & the usual tea, jam, butter & bread.  Rum issue."
"26 Wed - Went to work.  Fritz bombed us.  3 or 4 killed & few wounded.  Nothing doing after dinner.  Chaps not back from work.  No mail. "
"27 Th - 6.30, B 8.  Went to sweep the roads etc.  Finished @ 4 o'c.  Very cold.  In bed soon after tea."
"28 Fri - Rev 6.30, B 8, Parade 9 till 12.  Lecture in afternoon.  No mail."
"29 Sat - Rev 6.30, B 8, arade 9 till 12.  Paraded to go to football match.  No mail.  Thinking of Ethel. God bless her."
We believe that this will be the Christmas card that Will sent to Ethel for Christmas 1917.  Whilst it isn't dated, it has had 'Italy' added to the front, so we think there's a very good chance that it is from this year.

There is a greeting inside from Will to Ethel, along with a write up of the history of the York & Lancaster Regiment.

New Year's Eve of 1917 saw Will take charge of a working party.  We don't know what they did, but they worked from 16.30 until 12.30 New Year's Day.

Will had now been away from home and his dearest Ethel since 9 June, over six months. How long would it be before Will managed to get back home again?

Monday 14 September 2015

Another Sewing Post ....

When trawling Pinterest to see what I could make with my fat quarters I was really drawn to the idea of making zippered pouches. 

I've seen loads that I really like including a double zippered pouch on Japenese Sewing Books, a kind of patchwork zippered pouch on a website, all in Japanese, but with good pictures, and another cool pouch here with details on how to cover the zip ends. 

This post is definitely not a tutorial on how to make a zippered pouch, but if you're going to have a go, it might help you to avoid the mistakes I made along the way. 

I've got some really lovely pink and cerise sewing themed fabric and decided I would use this to make my first pouch and decided to go for the double zippered design. 

I'm not sure what I was thinking of, I've never put a zip in before, never mind two. Anyway, I was desperate to crack on so headed into town for zips and interfacing. 

Things didn't quite go to plan.  Unfortunately the market didn't have the coloured zip that I wanted in their 50p box so I ended up buying two from the Co-op at £1.50 each. I won't be doing that again, but more about that later. 

I was also gutted to find, after traipsing all over town and the local retail park, on foot, that there was no interfacing to be had in Tamworth, not even in Hobbycraft! Back home and I managed to source some cheap heavy wight interfacing on Ebay from The Haberdashery Cart and had to postpone my efforts until it arrived. 

A Few days later and I was good to go. 

The instructions for making this pouch and really good and there are pictures of every step, which really help. 

When it comes to inserting zips, it is a bit of a baptism of fire as you end up stitching along the zip edge seven times!! 

After a fair amount of unpicking, having got the lining the wrong way round twice, this is what I ended up with. 
Not perfect, but not bad for a first go and definitely usable. It did seem a bit lumpy around the very expensive zip ends and because the interfacing was quite thick it was quite hard to poke the corners out, so maybe not good enough for my Etsy shop or my new Facebook page .... Hand Made at Number 27.

I then found a really old and grubby white zip in my sewing box and decided to have another bash at a different type of pouch. I gave the the zip a good wash in washing up liquid and it came up like new. 

This time I decided to have a go at a kind of patchwork design, with some really cheerful nautical fabric and thought I'd also have a go at covering the zip ends. 

I loved how this one turned out, though the strips are quite narrow so it is hard to really see the pattern on the fabric ... and I managed to get the anchor fabric, at the top, upside down. Also, again, the interfacing has made the thing just a little bit lumpy, as it's hard to fuse the interfacing across all of the seams. 

So, again, not perfect, but definitely usable and already full of my crochet hooks and bits and pieces.
The one thing I would say about this one is that, whilst it's fairly simple to make up, doing it in patchwork does mean there is a lot more sewing to be done, both in stitching everything together and then in the top stitching, which makes for a nice finish. I'm not sure how commercially viable this would be. 

So, now completely out of zips and needing a lighter weight interfacing I got back on ebay and put in another order for some medium weight interfacing and started hunting for cheaper zips. 

A few days later, before I had come to a decision about which zips to order, I had a call from mum, who had made a shopping trip over to Burton on Trent. She said there was a man on the market selling zips, all colours and sizes, for 30p each and did I want her to get me some. Hell yeah, mum, most definitely!!  She picked me up a great selection to get me going. 

Finally, I had my medium weight interfacing and my cheap zips, which were fab by the way, and I was ready to have another bash. 
I was back onto the double zippered pouch and wanted to put my learning into practice. I made another one with the sewing themed fabric, with covered zip ends and the medium weight interfacing and it has come out quite well. 

There is just one thing that I am not happy with and that is that I have not pressed the lining back fully in the front pocket so there is the danger that this may catch on the zip. It's no fun being a flippin' perfectionist!  The covered zip ends look great though and I think the medium weight interfacing is definitely a better option. 

On a roll I decided to make another straight away. I went for a pirate themed fabric this time and all went really well. The zips looked great and the lining was all where it was supposed to be. Could this be as good as I was going to get? 
On giving the pouch it's final press, the blinking iron only went and deposited a load of gunk on the top right hand corner, leaving me with yet another non-perfect pouch and wondering if I would ever get this completely right. 

Not one to be easily deterred I decided to try something different and went back to my patchwork design. Only bigger and with owls. I'm not really keen on this one at all. It's all out of proportion and I think the top strip is too wide. Also the bottom strips have gone a bit wonky. Not my finest hour.  In fact I so don't like that I've not even taken any pictures of it.

I decided to have one last go. I dumped the patchwork and went for a single zippered version in two types of the nautical fabric with contrasting ruffle and binding on the front. The combination of the simplicity of the design, the style of the fabric and all of my learning ended up with a pouch that I am really happy with and I will definitely repeat, maybe in different sizes. 
I used an 18cm zip and this is a great size for a pencil case but may be a bit big for, say a make up bag, so I am sure I will try it again a bit smaller. 
Feeling a bit more confident I have made two more pouches since then. I've used up the rest of the owl fabric on a ruffle design, and had another go at a sewing themed double zippered version. Both have turned out great and the sewing themed one is already in my Etsy shop.
So, out of the 8 pouches I have made so far ... I have two that I will use myself, three that are definitely good enough for gifts, one that is on sale on Etsy and two that I am not sure what I will do with.

I do plan to make more of these and made a trip myself to Burton market on the train last week to buy more zips. I bought 25, in different sizes and colours so hopefully you will soon see more of these both in my Etsy shop and on my Facebook page.
If you're planning on having a go at making a pouch, I hope you found my tips and experiences useful.

Thanks for letting me share.

Monday 7 September 2015

The Sewing Bug!

Boy I've got it bad!! 

After sewing nothing, other than taking up a pair of Martin's trousers, for nigh on 35 years, my sewing machine doesn't know what's hit it. 

Over the last few weeks It's been in and out of its cosy hidey hole under the stairs more times than Martin's been down to his beer shed! 

If you follow my blog you will have seen that a few weeks ago, I had a delivery of some gorgeous fat quarters and those, coupled with lots of trawling of Pinterest have really got me inspired. 
At the moment I seem to be running on a theme of cushion covers, tooth fairy pillows and zippered pouches. 

So far I've used the owl and the Scottie Dog fabric to make two cushion covers. Whilst I am pleased with how both have come out there has been lots of learning along the way. 

I have learned that I need to get better on the measuring front ...
On the first cover I had to add another strip and on the second I had to chop a chunk off each side. Clearly I'd over corrected. Having now written down my measurements for next time hopefully it will be third time lucky. 

I have learned a lot about fastenings ...
As I wasn't brave enough to attempt real button holes, on the first cover I decided to use snap fastenings, with nice chunky buttons stitched on just for show. Doing this I soon found out that stitching buttons directly on top of where a snap fastening is is not easy. Hence on the second cover I have used a Velcro fastening and placed the buttons either side. 

I have learned that exact seam allowances are important ... 
The other thing that is just a little tricky on this project is to ensure that seam allowances are all identical, otherwise you find that where the cover meets to fasten, the strips don't line up. That is very frustrating. I have added a ribbon bow to the second cover to try and disguise this, but again, hopefully next time I can put this learning into practice. 
My tooth fairy pillows have been far more successful and other than the re-positioning of the pocket and lining this with interfacing, these all seem to have gone well and some are now on sale in my Etsy shop. 

So far I have used the owl, the Scottie Dog and nautical fabrics and I love the way they've all turned out.  

I've even made my first sale!!

When it comes to the zippered pouches I think I can say that it has definitely been a journey. In fact I think it's worthy of its own blog post so you can read more about those very soon.

Tuesday 1 September 2015

In the Garden - August

August - In flower ...
As I predicted in July, the Agapanthus has been amazing this month and is still going strong.  At the moment it is making a really good show against the backdrop of the Acer, which is starting to turn a flame red colour.
I've had my first Hollyhock flower and it is just lovely.  This is the third year they've been in the garden, I planted three and this is the first time that one has managed to beat the Hollyhock rust that seems to attack them with a vengeance.
We've also currently got Kaffir Lilies in flower, along with the first blooms of the Hibiscus.
On the patio, the Sweet Peas are looking a bit scraggy and the hanging baskets are still colourful, but past their best. The Zinias, however, are still going very strong and looking really bright and cheerful.
Back in July I wrote that the borders in the garden were looking very green, with not much in flower. Well, I took my own advice and headed to the local garden centre to see what was currently on show.

I ended coming back with three new plants, none of which we currently have in the garden.  I bought a Rudbeckia, a Stokesia (which I have never heard of) and a yellow daisy, for which I can't remember the name!
We also bought some bargain lilies, and two Hibiscus from Aldi!  Now it's fine buying plants from Aldi, as long as you pretty much get them on the day they have them.  Our Aldi is certainly not known for plant care and we often see very sorry sights of racks of plants just dying of severe thirst on the Aldi forecort.

August - What we've been up to ...
As predicted in July, we've made up a batch of Courgette & Apricot chutney.

We've also had bowls of blueberries, I would say it's been the best year ever and we've made both sticky lemon and blueberry cake and a blueberry frangipane tart.  
We've continued to water, feed and deadhead, but have to admit to getting a bit behind with this at times.

We were hoping for a family Bank Holiday BBQ to show of the garden, but we were thwarted by the weather, so we had to postpone.

August - What's next ...
Lots of preparation will be needed for the Autumn.  The hanging baskets will need to hit the compost bin and the privet is ready for another prune.

It would be great to get all of the borders tidied up before the leaves start to fall, but whether we'll get round to that or not is anybody's guess.

It would also be nice to have a bit of sunshine and get a few more BBQs in.  Fingers crossed for that one.

August - and finally ...
Though we are not encouraging him, Harry seems to know when we are in the garden and has become a regular visitor.  We often are surprised by him jumping over the garden gate to see what we are up to.