Easter holiday with family … and more Vietnamese textiles

Hand embroidered Vietnamese skirt – worked by the Red Mong tribe

With only 2-3 months before we leave Ipsden and the vicarage which has been our home for 9 years, sorting out is becoming a serious business. A mound of magazine and newspaper cuttings have been compressed into 3 scrapbooks while the first edit of my fabric stocks has left me with a pine chest and a couple of boxes all full to the brim. The vicar has been spending a lot of time in the garden burning unwanted documents and old bank statements going back well beyond 9 years – this sudden love of the garden is in direct proportion to the pile of clothes that await him to try on whenever he enters the house as we edit his wardrobe for a new life. There, you see the important things have been dealt with first.

Vietnamese hand embroidered skirt by the Red Mong tribe

Vietnamese hand embroidered skirt by the Red Mong tribe

The initial cull of children’s books went to daughter No 1’s home a few weeks ago. This week end saw daughter No 2 make her selection –  yards of  The Chalet School, Mallory Towers,  The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and subsequent books with much loved Dido Twite, my old lovely Collins’ edition of  ‘Heidi’, Heidi Grows Up, Heidi’s Children, etc., etc. Packing was halted from time to time for renditions from the Ahlberg’s poetry collection  ‘Please Mrs Butler’. All was a welcome antidote to the piles books analysing modern warfare and documenting the use of cluster munitions which filled her other boxes. A balanced life is a good thing

Red Mong skirt : detail of cross stitch border

Red Mong skirt : detail of cross stitch border

Red Mong skirt : detail of cross stitch and appliquéd ribbon border

Red Mong skirt : detail of cross stitch and appliquéd ribbon border

Red Mong skirt : detail of cross stitch border

Red Mong skirt : detail of cross stitch border

Red Mong skirt : detail of indigo skirt with delicate wax resist pattern  and appliqué bands

Red Mong skirt : detail of indigo skirt with delicate wax resist pattern and appliqué bands

The bookshelves were the easy bit. The garage was the real challenge and Saturday was spent in a bit of a haze as boxes of past lives were emptied out, their contents emoted over and ultimately reassigned to new boxes variously directed to Manchester, North Wales, London, charity shops, the recycling box, the council dump and the fire… Executive decisions were made as things categorised as rubbish just a few hours before were later rescued and reordered as necessities. A well worn T shirt bought when we went to see the musical ‘Grease’ in the West End was the subject of much discussion – it now awaits the bin men later in the week.

Red Mong skirt: hand dyed and embroidered (great with boots and tights)

Red Mong skirt: hand dyed and embroidered (great with boots and tights)

Well, we were all over the place and the house was a mess (and I don’t even mention the paraphernalia of the 2 year old who was in fact no trouble at all). Someone started muttering about it being stressful. I preferred to see it as the opportunity for a giant spring clean after which we would all feel better and walk lighter unladen by the rubbish of half a lifetime – though I doubt my looks said this. I love possessions but there are times when I look at the animal kingdom and think how much easier it would be if we too had fur and didn’t need to pick up a suitcase or build a solid home instead of a nest. The hares in the field beyond don’t even have a particular home, they just hunker down in the ruts in the field whenever the fancy takes them. I’ve seen them sit like that for hours in the snow and thought how little it would suit me. We are not a family of hares.

Vietnamese embroidery by one of the Mong tribes

Vietnamese embroidery by one of the Mong tribes

But the church biscuit still needed to be made and these were finally completed and iced in the very small hours of Easter Day after everyone had collapsed into their beds. In fact the hours were smaller than I realised as with a house full of people, their clothes washing, food preparation, and their material histories, the day that followed looked much like any other and not at all like the first day of British Summer Time. 7.55 on my bedside chest became 8.55 on the vicar’s radio controlled watch and moderated panic broke out. We sent the vicar on his way for the 9.30 service and in return we got the church warden who came to pick me and the biscuits up. In his gentlemanly fashion, he waited outside as he glimpsed the pandemonium within.

Vietnamese embroidery by the the Red Mong tribe: detail of band around the bottom of a skirt

Vietnamese embroidery by the the Red Mong tribe: detail of band around the bottom of a skirt

Vietnamese embroidery by the Red Mong tribe

Vietnamese embroidery by the Red Mong tribe

Vietnamese embroidery: bag embroidered by the Red Mong tribe

Vietnamese embroidery: bag embroidered by the Red Mong tribe

All was well. By the time I got to church it was full of people and the urn was already bubbling – but I shall save the rest until I blog on the biscuits tomorrow. Pictorially this post is devoted to my last few photographs of Vietnamese embroidery and in particular daughter No 2’s best and most beautiful Vietnamese skirt. The skirt came from Sa Pa (Sapa) Town in the far North of Vietnam, The other embroideries were photographed in a shop selling vintage pieces in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) just round the corner from our hotel. I am glad to have the bright colours when it is still so cold in the Chilterns and the sun is so very intermittent.

Vietnamese embroidery: bands of appliqué and embroidery by the Flower Mong people

Vietnamese embroidery: bands of appliqué and embroidery by the Flower Mong people

Vietnamese embroidery: bands of appliqué and embroidery by the Flower Mong people

Vietnamese embroidery: bands of appliqué and embroidery by the Flower Mong people

For another post on Vietnamese skirts and brief descriptions of the traditional embroidered clothes of the main Vietnamese tribes see here. Daughter No 2’s skirt above is very like the splendid skirt of the Flower Mong shown in this post. However, I think that of my daughter’s is the work of the women of the Red Mong tribe because it lacks the floral fabric appliqué (seen behind the black squares in the border) to be expected from the Flower Mong. Who knows?

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  1. marge
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Having moved three times in three years recently, I have to agree whole-heartedly – exhausting but cathartic. And after a ruthless start, my resolve leaves me, and decision fatigue sets in.
    We do have an embarrassment of riches don’t we? And with each move we’ve been determined to buy nothing more, ever – hasn’t happened of course.
    Good luck with the rest of it. Are you moving far?

    • Mary Addison
      Posted March 30, 2016 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      Goodness three times in three years sounds exhausting.
      The trouble with us is that 2 of my 4 children had most of their worldly possessions stored in our garage (one was abroad for 4 years and the other went late to university after several years of paid employment and accumulation of furniture, etc. in shared houses). I feel I have refined my own things down to what I would like to keep but as we hope to move to a flat in London I may have to rethink about those things too. I am however now heartily pleased that what looks like a solid wall of bookshelves is in fact 7 individual ones which can be split up and distributed. I know what you mean about being determined to buy nothing more.

      • marge
        Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:42 am | Permalink

        Yes, I know what you mean about ‘other people’s things’. We have a huge stash of effects belonging to daughter no.3 in our attic. But we are not guilt-free – we still have a number of boxes stored in the warm dry attic of daughter no.1 in Wales, and a whole heap of stuff in the top floor of the old chapel which is my brother-in-law’s workshop. But the thing that worries me most is that I’m hanging on to my ice-cream maker in the vain hope that one day I’ll find the lid…..

        • Penny Cross
          Posted March 31, 2016 at 8:23 am | Permalink

          Oh, my goodness, Marge. Now you’ve reminded me that we have a twice-used ice cream maker in our loft, lid and all! An impulse buy (my middle names…) that I just couldn’t get on with.

          • Mary Addison
            Posted March 31, 2016 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

            Go on, Penny, get it out and have another go!

        • Mary Addison
          Posted March 31, 2016 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

          Oh, do get the manufacturers to send you a new lid – if it’s not too old a model.
          I have terrible secrets lurking in our garage which as yet I can’t bring myself to admit to in public. We used to spend a lot of time with a friend who is a print dealer and who had had wonderful things in his home picked up for a song at the end of sales, etc. I knew I couldn’t emulate this so chose to collect something much more frivolous instead, hoping that 30 years later I might have hit the jackpot. I think my bet did not come off and now I have to get rid of hundreds of individual items which will probably only go for what I paid for them…
          Well done for having reversed the order of things and storing things in your daughter’s attic.

          • Marge
            Posted April 2, 2016 at 9:35 am | Permalink

            I would, but I have a yearning to make peanut butter ice-cream and fear it would be my undoing, so maybe it’s best the machine remains lidless!

          • Mary Addison
            Posted April 2, 2016 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

            Yes, it could be the beginning of something too delicious to call a halt to!

  2. Anne Hill
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    That sounds both tiring and stressful. Since my marriage I have lived in the same house, if we ever had to move arson might be the only solution. My mother, however, moved every two or three years often to different countries and climates. She often boasted she could pack her house in three days. I do hope you continue to blog. Where would I be without your regular doses of inspiration.


    • Mary Addison
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      There’s a large part of me that loves stability and I could quite happily have stayed in one place for ever. But then again I have enjoyed living both here and before that briefly in Monmouth. You are right, it is the packing up of houses that’s the worst aspect of moving. Your mother is an impressive person who obviously has her life well organised.
      I shall continue to blog but it will be a bit different. I doubt I shall have as much time for embroidery. We shall have to see what happens.
      Thank you for your very kind comment – which is itself inspirational to me.

  3. Bev S.
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Although I do not enjoy the process of sorting things and getting rid of them, there is something so cleansing about purging unwanted things. How wonderful to move to London and be close to so much!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      I do agree about the catharsis of sorting through accumulated possessions. I hope we’ve started early enough as I much prefer taking things at a leisurely pace than being in a mad panic – but I dare say that will set in at some point.
      It will be lovely to be able to walk to cinemas, theatres, etc and we are fortunate that we will be near some excellent bus routes (all free now for wrinklies, as it the underground for people who live in London. How lucky we are.)

  4. Penny Cross
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    Good luck, Mary, and very happy landings in London. So much to look forward to and I wish you all the very best. Do hope you will find the time to continue to share your embroidery as well as other subjects with your loyal fans! I lived in London 2000-2007 before returning to Norfolk and loved every minute but a little while ago I listed all the places I’d lived in, and for how long. If we stay just one more year here, it will be 9 years, the longest time I’ve ever spent in one house since I was born so I’m beginning to wonder whether I’ll get the urge to move soon…

    Thank you for making time, in the midst of your over-busy schedule, to show us these beautiful Vietnamese embroidered garments, especially your daughter’s lovely skirt. And how you managed to begin house clearance as well as make the church biscuit makes my head start to spin!

    By the way, all charity shops are grateful for any textiles for their rag bag so don’t give to the bin men! Our local Salvation Army shop makes several hundred pounds a month from rags.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for your kind wishes – I do appreciate them. You Penny obviously have no trouble settling in wherever you find yourself. I know from your comments how good you are about getting out and about and visiting exhibitions, literary festivals etc.
      I still hope to blog but I think my production of embroidery will slow down considerably. I think I’ll have to get a bit more inventive about doing less fine work and more collage/appliqé. I’ve certainly got a few quilts waiting to be sewn up. We’ll have to see how things turn out.

  5. Posted March 30, 2016 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    My goodness, the idea of dealing with all that – and a busy time of year for the vicar too. I’m not surprised he took refuge in burning paperwork!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      Yes, poor man. It’s a good job he’s a pretty equitable person – especially as no doubt things may get worse before they get better in the vicarage over the next few months.

  6. Becky
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    Hello Mary. I didn’t know that you were moving (not that I expect you to keep me informed!). Whenever I go to London for a work meeting, I always wish I had lived in London when I was younger and wonder if I might get chance to when I am older and my daughter has gone off to find her own adventures. Although, I expect I will follow her, particularly if there are any grandchildren to care for. Anyway, I wish you the best of luck and I hope that you will continue to write about embroidery and biscuits. bx xxx
    PS. I am also looking forward to reacquainting myself with the Chalet School when the time comes. There was a time when all I longed for was to join Jo and have a cup of hot coffee and a duvet to sleep under!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      We were never quite sure when we would leave here and in fact my husband’s licence finished in February but when the bishop heard that in June he (my husband that is) would be celebrating 50 years since he was made deacon, the bishop said, ‘stay till June and we’ll have a celebration’.
      It’s only recently that we’ve finalised where we will go, and until then I mostly adopted a ‘let’s not think about it’ attitude. Que sera sera.
      London will be enjoyable in an entirely different way to life in the country but it will be especially enjoyable to be near my daughter, son-in-law and grandson and to be able to support them more immediately. My husband, the best of step fathers, is very happy about doing this. Blogging will carry on but perhaps in a slightly different form.
      Ah comfort reading and the bliss of children’s books (children waking with snow on the bedding in one of The Little House on the Prairie series still haunts me on a snowy night)!

      • Becky
        Posted March 31, 2016 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

        Well I hope you have a wonderful celebration before leaving and you will have the joys of visiting lots of places in London with your grandson. Have you been to the museum of childhood in Bethnall Green? It is top of my London to do list at the moment. Lauren Childs presented a programme about her obession with doll houses and it involved a visit to the museum. bx

        • Mary Addison
          Posted March 31, 2016 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

          I keep intending to go the The Museum of Childhood and now I shall have both the opportunity and the excuse. Thanks for reminding me.

  7. Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Oh my goodness Mary, I feel sad that you are moving from the Chilterns. How ridiculous, when we have never met and theoretically it makes no difference where in the world you are. I will miss reading about your church biscuits, and special church services throughout the year. I do sincerely hope you continue blogging, it would be such a loss if you stopped. Very best of luck with the move, and all the packing up! X

    • Mary Addison
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

      Equally ridiculously, I am very moved by your momentary spike of sadness and yet have to thank you for letting me know. The blog will change although as yet I’m not sure how. I hope to keep making things and wonder should I go smaller or much bigger to make use of less available time…

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