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Monday, 27 January 2014

Less is often More Part II

 I think I am beginning to get the hang of patchwork!  I have been busily making this little quilt using up the fabrics I have to hand.  I had wanted to try out the disappearing 9 patch I'd read about on various blogs and so here is my attempt - I made 2 different blocks and used 2 of the cut squares from each block in each cushion to give a wider range of colours.

 I have a couple of wicker chairs in the conservatory which have shaped cushions in what was originally a pale cream colour which needed replacing as they have become stained and worn in spite of repeated washing (the cats having chosen them as their preferred beds in warmer weather) but rather than attempting to make shaped cushion covers I decided that small quilts tucked over the top would do the job, be easy to remove and wash and look just fine.  Now all we need is for the weather to warm up sufficiently for us to sit out there with our cuppas!  The second quilt is nearly finished so now what I wonder?!

Following on from my last post in which I suggested that less is sometimes more and mentioned my book The Garden Cottage Diaries I thought about technology and how much I now use the internet and how I keep trying to cut back so as to have time for more crafting.and other things and was reminded of the Three Day Week and how we were all plunged into darkness forty years ago in 1974.  I wonder just how we would manage these days without electricity 4 days every week?  Of course we had no computers then nor any of the myriad electronic gizmos that people use all the time these days and which require re-charging regularly.

We were lucky enough to have a Parkray fire - this was a cream enameled glass fronted fire with a back boiler for hot water (we didn't have central heating back then) and used solid fuel so we were warm enough in the living room on the days when there was no electricity but of course the rest of the house was freezing as it was from January to March that the 3-day week took place.  We had candles for light and a little camping gas stove which we could heat a kettle on.  But - and here is the thing - we managed and knowing everyone was in the same boat led to a kind of Blitz spirit.  At work we were bundled up in coats and scarves and luckily not having computers nor even electric typewriters an office job was not much affected apart from not being able to see what we were typing after 3.00 in the afternoon and not being able to feel our fingers!!

We didn't have a TV back then so that didn't matter to us and we made use of the radio Mr M had brought with him to our marriage which ran on a battery!!  Reading by candle light was not easy but we managed and I used to make casseroles and suchlike on the days we did have electricity and then we'd have something to re-heat on the camping gas stove on the days when we didn't have power.  And at least we didn't have to worry about not having a fridge as the house was so cold and freezers were only just becoming fashionable and we didn't have one.  Perhaps my childhood without electricity helped me to deal with it all.
Maybe my idea of running away and living off-grid  - which I spoke about here - wasn't such a bad idea after all!  At least I would have some knowledge of such a lifestyle from my years of living in the Forest at my grandfather's of which I have written in my childhood memories posts.  There we had no electricity nor gas and although there was mains water by the time I lived there and the well had been covered up the tap was in an outhouse and shared between the two houses.  Life was different then but I don't remember being unhappy at not having all mod cons even those that were by the 50s available.  After all most homes in the 50s had mains water and indoor toilets along with electricity for lights if not for power (who remembers electric irons being plugged into the light fittings?!).  However we had paraffin lamps for light, a range fire for cooking and heat and a toilet out the back which must have been connected to a septic tank or something - it certainly didn't have a flush.  We had a wind up radiogram which one of my uncles had apparently made years before in the 20s perhaps, and a few rather dated 78's to play on it when we had any needles!  We did rent a radio in time for the Coronation I remember but that required an accumulator to run it and this had to be recharged each week at the shop and necessitated a walk to said shop carrying the accumulator (see below) which weighed a ton!

No telephone let alone a mobile (not yet invented), no computer, nothing electrical no iron (heavy flat irons heated on the fire were used, kettles (black iron kettle on the fire), washing machines (obviously no plumbing nor electricity so washing was done by hand) but there was time which always seems to be in short supply these days.  Time to talk, time to read (preferably during daylight hours!) time to make meals from scratch rather than shoving a ready meal (not then invented) into the microwave (not yet available for domestic use).  Chores took longer of course and were physically harder but together with not shopping for so much (having to carry it all home on foot cuts down on what can be bought not to mention the lack of money and rationing) meant nobody was overweight!

Less use of the car (what car?!) meant more walking as it was the only way to get about other than taking a bus or train.

Less comfort indoors and very little space meant more time spent outdoors playing for me and my friends which meant more exercise - no couch potatoes with their electronic gismos to play on then!

Less money to spend - more creativity - not so much in the way of beautiful crafts but more of the necessity being the mother of invention kind!

I could go on and on but I'd better stop.  Here is a little piece I came across which says it more briefly than I have!


  1. The "less consuming, more creating" bit is going successfully - I like your colourful mini quilt! Your post is so evocative and brought back memories of having to warm my plasticine over the candle during the blackouts! I agree with you about the appeal of a simpler life.

  2. I love this thought-provoking post. Although of course I wouldn't wish for some of the hardships, I am convinced people were happier then. Now there is a huge amount of anxiety caused by all of the electronic stuff and commercial bombardment. I think I would love a simpler way of life. The poster is wonderful.

  3. Wow! You certainly are doing well with the quilting. Did you do the quilting bit by hand or on the machine?
    As for the good old day ???? I much prefer the way things are now. Going without electricity, even for a short time , is awful here as we really need our refrigeration especially. It would make us get up and out a bit more though.

  4. Love the little 9 patch quilt with its zingy colours.
    I often wonder if we, and our children, appreciate what we have now.

  5. I think that not so wonderful 20thC invention inbuilt obsolescence has a very great deal to answer for ... a simple repair to something with years more life in it took a lot less longer to sort out than sourcing a new version of something you'll need to replace again in five minutes.

  6. Love you little quilts. I do think that we are overwhelmed by the amount of choice we have now and too much choice oddly does not make us happy.

  7. I can't quite get my head around quilting, too much colour perhaps?

    Your childhood and mine sound very similar, except that we always had a radio - a very large piece of equipment with very romantic sounding radio stations on the dial. Hilversum comes to mind. There seems to have been electicity all my life but, as you say, the kettle was always on the hob, warming up, in case anyone needed tea and the iron, when elecrtical ones first appeared, had to be plugged into the light. Happy days!

  8. Your quilting efforts are coming along very well. The bright cushion covers will be used soon.
    It's really amazing to think about how much things have changed in one's lifetime. We live in such comfort now with all of our electrical and electronic devices - if the electricity goes out for an hour or two people complain. I hadn't heard about the 3 day week in 1974 in Britain. Wow. That would have taken some getting used to.

  9. Just catching up after our few days in the SW. Saw lots of surface water around you but didn't venture into the worst parts. I doubt they need sightseers but I did read that people have been trying to do just that. Thanks for the reminder about the three days week. I remember it well and like you said, we just got on with it. You always offer a thought provoking slant when you reminisce Jane and this post is another of those that drag our attention back to things past.


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