Barefoot gardening, sewing and biscuits

June and July are such beautiful months for me and I am often wake at 4.30 or 5am. It is 4.40am now and the back door is open with the birds singing the dawn chorus and the sky’s “blanket” is slowly being pulled back as the day awakens, traffic is minimal. I often grab a lap quilt, wrap or cardigan and sit outside in a chair, barefoot but snug and look around the garden at what jobs need doing, potter around a little and pull a few weeds whilst I think of very little - this morning it is dead heading after the heatwave and writing the blog. I'll make some good fresh coffee and sit quietly contemplating with a biscuit (if I have some) or a snack size breakfast and go back to bed, about an hour after waking when the morning traffic starts, sleeping until the alarm wakes me a few hours later.

Some of my fondest memories are from the months of June and July over several years and all happened in one place - 25 Sutton Avenue, my Nan’s home in Berkshire where we would stay for weekends, as grandchildren do and for parent free summer holidays. The strong links between gardening, sewing, baking & my love of biscuits were formed over those June and July weekends at Sutton Avenue ...

I frequently woke (in the sewing room) and not sure of the time I’d pull the curtains a little, often to see my Nan in the middle of a deep border, weeding with a cardi on. I’d make my way downstairs, the dog quietly giving me away before I reached the kitchen. Nan would make some tea, I’d get a juice and choose a few biscuits from the well worn, round Highland Shortbread biscuit tin then we’d sit on the patio, talking in whispers, with me learning about gardening, mixtures of compost, planting on and hearing bits about holidays abroad with my Grandpa in years gone by and listening for the wood pigeons. I clearly remember the tranquil feeling of that early hour in the day and feeling that was our special, magical time together. The neighbourhood would start waking up, the dog would become lively and it was time for breakfast, where we’d make plans for the day with the radio quietly in the background - shopping at the local shops (if we were lucky), swimming, gardening, fruit picking if Nan felt patient enough to deal with us at the fruit farm, summer sewing projects - that’s when seam rippers came into my life, garden sprinklers and evening watering.

I was an enthusiastic sort who couldn't wait to get stuck in, Nan had a job curtailing that enough to show us and for me learn, my older sibling getting cross and bossy with me before a curt word or two from Nan would settle me down. I remember using the smaller scissors for my small hands but wishing I could use the larger Singer ones & sitting on a cushion on the sewing stool with the old black Singer (99k) in front of me with it's gold decoration that was just beautiful to little eyes. The foot pedal was on a shoe box, I'd thread the machine up, double check it all and we were off. Then was in awe at seeing the stitches I had sewn holding the fabrics together - it was magical and all with my Nan’s voice guiding me through it over my shoulder. I used to be eager to be able to use the machine and was always excited. I loved the tales of the cocktail and party dresses that machine had made - amazed that one woman and one “simple”, old sewing machines ability, equally amazed it could make these new much simpler garments. My reward for curtailing my enthusiasm was being able to pull weeds, walk the dog, play and nap in the clothes, I'd had a hand in making and all with a sense of pride that I’d played a part in making them.

As I grew up sewing and early mornings gave way to teenage years and adulthood, although sewing on some level continued with me (with repurposing old clothes, often ending in disaster). After my Nan passed a few years ago I couldn’t sew for ages but sometime later I got her old Singer machine out (that now lives with me) and gave her a go - a totally difference experience to the new Brother machine I used. She gives a clean, simple, honest sew where straight lines, forward and reverse are the only options. She's so smooth and solid, despite knowing she hadn’t been used for several years, she didn’t skip a stitch, faultless as ever and I was taken a back to those comforting childhood memories.

So now I'm in my mid 40’s, with an older teenager of my own, I understand why Nan was in the borders gardening at dawn and why she had either made her own clothes or in later years adjusted shop bought clothes. It all makes sense now, that wisdom has come with age and knowledge. I'm so glad I realised it before she passed away and we had the chance to talk about jobs to do at that early hour that wouldn't wake the house, along with more memories of holidays with Grandpa on the continent, compost mixture for seedlings, planting on and re-potting - all over a coffee at 11am and a few biscuits from the old tin or a home made cake from the old tub. Now I have my own garden, sprinkler, plants, sewing machines, business and child I too find those early summer mornings a beautiful, calming and essential part of my life.

If you can impart some of your skills, knowledge and wisdom onto younger ones it's worth finding the patience to do so, the seeds you sew will grow into their own strong plants, firmly rooted in that young ones life!

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