A few months ago I was asked if I could make two shawls for Basildon Park, the house where I work. They were to go into the Lady Iliffe's bedroom to protect an armchair and a chaise longue from hands that are prone to touching the soft furnishings. As we touch them they wear away and eventually disintegrate to nothing. The armchair in particular had already suffered some damage and the repair was now being damaged.
Lord and Lady Iliffe were the last owners of Basildon Park and gave it to the National Trust to care for nearly 40 years ago. So it is important that things are taken care of and kept in good condition for as long as possible. The National Trust believes in conservation, which is keeping things in the best possible state you can, rather than restoration, which is making things look like new.
I was honoured to be asked to make something to go into the house, especially something that will protect it for future generations to enjoy. I am passionate about Basildon Park as you know and also about conservation and keeping things safe for the future. So it was a real delight to make something for the house.
Immediately I handed over a shawl that I had made for myself a couple of years ago, but which I never wear. That is being used over the back of the armchair. I needed to make a shawl though for the chaise longue. Finally, it is finished, so Ta Dah! Lady Iliffe's Shawl!
It is made from an acrylic yarn, which might seem like an unusual choice, but it is hard wearing and will also resist any bugs eating or living in it which is important in a historic house. We can do without a family of moths taking up residence!
Lady Iliffe's bedroom is wallpapered with a delicate pink paper, and the curtains are a floral chintz fabric with a blue ribbon running through the flowers. One of Lady Illife's favourite colours was pink. I thought that the pinks and greens in this yarn would compliment all of that, and the change of colours should help to disguise any grubby finger marks.
I don't have a decent photo of Lady Iliffe's bedroom, but this is a photo of a postcard. The room looks a little different to this now, but you get the idea. The chaise is the one you can just see in front of the table and the armchair just makes it into the right of the picture.
There isn't a pattern I am afraid. I made it up on the hoof, quite literally sitting at work one day and playing with the yarn and my crochet hook. The border is also made up and I have no idea what sort of stitch you would call it! Next year I am hoping to do some work on patterns, and I hope to release this pattern to you then.
The edge has a sort of frilly look to it which I think makes it look quite ladylike. It is hard to make something that looks delicate but which is in fact quite dense and hardwearing! This is not the place for delicate laceweight yarn with lots of open work!
You are seeing this before I take it into work later in the week. I hope that they will be as pleased with it as I am! Lady Iliffe's bedroom is now closed for conservation cleaning until spring next year, but if you visit then you should be able to see both shawls doing their job of protecting the furniture and adding to the lived in look of the house.
I was commissioned in the spring to make some daffodils for the house, but this is the first "big" thing that I have been asked to make or have finished for someone else. All rather nerve wracking, but exciting too! We will see if perhaps it leads somewhere. Depends on my self confidence levels which are, despite perhaps appearances, not the best!
Hope that you like it!