Drop the peg bag

I’ve just been looking through a Kath Kidson “make and sew” booklet free with the Sunday Telegraph. It features pretty appliqued things and hand-made things and tells you how to make your own peg bag and embroidery your own bedsocks with little tiny parrots. Well they looked a bit like parrots but could have been budgies or large water fleas.

It made me think about what I’ll do with my time when I do have time. Specifically, it made me think that I’d rather stick knitting needles into my own eyes that cut out a Kath Kidson template of a flower and make my own peg bag.

A peg bag?? I ask you. Pegbags are for wussies. Peg bags were among the first things we made at during sewing lessons at school. If you’re eleven it might be exciting to make a peg bag, if you’ve led a very sheltered life incarcerated in a cellar. I thought it was boring, even then. When you’ve got kids grown up and earning far more than you, it’s a totally ridiculous concept.

Surely we worldly women should be pushing ourselves, pushing the boundaries of our knowledge and experience, not sewing bleedin’ Kath Kidson pegbags. We should be out there doing stuff in the fresh air, planning cycling adventures, strenuous hikes, watery flounderings and in the dark evenings of winter, writing, painting, doing sewing yes but imaginative sewing – sewing from the heart, creating those amazing intricate machine embroideries with gold threads, glittery bits, and sumptious velvets.

There’s so much out there to stretch the skills, use the imagination, create truly individual pieces of art that to copy a peg bag from the S Telegraph booklet seems little more than crass.

Why bother with a peg bag when there is jewellery to be designed, mosaics to be made, wood carving to be attempted, sculptures to be fashioned with bare hands out of clammy cold clay, paintings to be daubed, bold, expressive, impressionistic or botanical drawings to be done where the beauty is in the accuracy and precision?

Creating the kind of stuff that an eleven year old is forced to turn out in school seems a terrible waste of life.

There was an era, when both my kids were young, that I had time for creative pursuits other than writing – although I did write a childrens’ book with a friend.  In between breast-feeding and walking the dog and attempting some housework – albeit minimal – I’d sit and sketch the sleeping baby, his little fists curled, the adorable tiny, plump feet with those tiny toenails, pink, new and perfect, the face in profile, the soft ear and the downy hair.

It sounds twee and a bit naff to say it, but it was a lovely thing, to have the time to appreciate the wonder of these new beings. ‘Course I felt a lot differently knackered at 1.30am rocking a bawling baby with unspecified abdominal discomfort but the quiet times were some compensation.

I did do some sewing, back then – all connected with the sproglets – cot quilt covers with appliqued ducks to match the nice Sanderson goose and duck curtains, which I also made.

And as the boys grew, there were birthday cakes to make. I was in very early on the whole cake decorating thing and it was a struggle to source gum tragacanth, liquid glucose and various other ingredients that enabled some quite fancy cake decorating with run-outs and trellising. Gum tragacanth had to come by post and liquid glucose had to be fetched from Boots pharmacy for some unknown reason.

So the first birthday cake for son no 2 was covered in home-made sugar-paste with a frieze of run-out dancing yellow teddy-bears around the outside. Terribly fiddly but kind of worth it. Son no 2 was too young to appreciate it but there were always specific requests for birthday cakes as he got older.

The Madball cake was among the most fun to make. Mad balls were gory things – the sort of ball that you can imagine a young Christopher Lee lobbing into some girl’s bedroom to make her scream. They were like a spherical House of Horrors with blood, open wounds, stitches and gore. I had free rein to be as tasteless asI liked. Son no 2 was properly delighted with the result.

The one that was most tricky was the space rocket cake. I created a two foot phallus of grey buttercream icing pointing skywards on a big silver board. Yes I know. Grey seem very appropriate to me either, but it’s difficult to do edible silver in vast quantities.

So once the phallus was raised… ok to be perfectly honest it was leaning at a similar angle to the Tower of Pisa – it was a question of adorning it to look more like a space rocket than something from the ‘private’ shop.  Silver dragees were the answer. I assumed the NASA engineers built rockets using masses of huge, rounded, silver rivets but it’s possible I was getting mixed up with Fireball XL5. Unfortunately they just gave the rocket a bling-infested Goth look.

I decided a nosecone would make it look more authentic. Blue and grey usually go together ok but Capt Sensible was perturbed by the blue, which in his view was more purple than blue.

“What the policeman?” splutted Capt Sensible. “You can’t show that to a load of six-year-olds – and definitely not to the parents!”

I changed the nosecone for a black one but it just looked even more dodgy. I only just managed to make it presentable with the judicious placement of some Lego astronauts, one of whom was stuck on the side of the rocket (doing a repair, I thought) with an arm stuck out clutching something that, in the eternal void that is space, could have been a spanner.

I need not have worried too much. At that age all kids want to do is destroy and eat.

As Confucius said “Better to have dodgy leaning rocket cake than perfect peg bag.”


About janh1

Part-time hedonist.
This entry was posted in Art, Countryside, Current Affairs, Food and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Drop the peg bag

  1. Pseu says:

    How wonderful to be able to turn your hand to all those things, Jan!

    My most difficult birthday cake challenge was a ‘Where’s Wally?’ – a globe tessellated in green and blue to represent the world, with a marzipan Wally on top. None of the friends even gave it a passing glance, really. It was decimated in moments.

    • Jan (@janh1) says:

      That sounds much more successful than the space rocket cake. It’s expression of love through cake. It’s good that it was decimated in moments. Like a glorious firework, that’s the whole point! 🙂

      (I may have done some stuff but none of it was all that great. My sewing’s been known to fall apart readily!:-) )

  2. IsobelandCat says:

    All that hard graft gone in a few mouthfuls. makes one appreciate the permanence of peg bags.
    We never made one, but i do still use my needlecase that i made aged eleven.

  3. Jan (@janh1) says:

    😀 Isobel, your point is persuasive but cake making is a bit of fun – and it’s quite nice eating what goes badly wrong. Making a nice flat surface ready for icing nearly always involves cake trimming and bits of cake that must not go to waste!

    That must be a very well-made needlecase. I can’t think of anything from that far back that I’ve still got – oh apart from a fat yellow crocheted caterpillar. It has no practical use and I never got around to attaching the antennae but the dog liked it.

  4. IsobelandCat says:

    I like the cake-making and have made a fair few in my time, mainly chocolate, but I have never got into the decoration stuff – probably because I don’t like icing, the taste I mean, so i have never quite got the point.
    The needlecase has held up pretty well. I don’t have any other school sewing projects.

  5. earlybird says:

    This made me laugh.

    My most successful (rather rustic) birthday cake was a Volcano. Basically a double height chocolate cake with the top part made in a ring mould, a lot of chocolate butter cream to sandwich it and RED caramel poured over (lava, of course) and stuck round with both chocolate and plastic dinosaurs. It was taken into school (the French don’t have any tradition it seems of home decorated cakes, they buy decorous versions from the patisserie) and the whole class was in awe! (very satisfactory!) Luckily no one broke their new front teeth on the caramel.

    • janh1 says:

      Sounds fabulous!! All the drama of the lava plus dinosaurs and chocolate? Had to be a winner. 🙂

      Nothing wrong with rustic. There’s someone in Bristol making a living doing charming Wonky” wedding cakes. If I can find a pic, I’ll post it but they are very colourful and there’s nothing symmetrical about them whatsoever.

  6. Did any of the parents see your space rocket? Or comment? 😀

    I made a very nice embroidered cat that hung on my Mum’s wall for 30 years till she moved. It has not made a reappearance in her new home. I’m a bit miffed!

    • janh1 says:

      Most parents of kids that age just drop ’em off at parties and run, Sophie! But I remember Rosie, the mother of one of Simon’s friends laughing at my “brave attempt.” She always played safe and bought birthday cakes. No sense of adventure! 🙂

      That cat sounds good. Shame you can’t show it off. I have a lovely embroidery of a horse’s head that I started when I was about 20. It’s still in the bag somewhere, half finished. I think I got distracted by learning the flute.

  7. Peggy Sew says:

    Ai wouldn’t be without my home made reclaimed recycled vintage eco coffee sack peg organiser which pushes the boundaries of wash day far enough, thank you. Cake is orl very well if one knows ones pegs are in order. Mai friend, Mrs. Dryersorf, has an Etruscan peg urn.

    Perhaps your cake could be called `Spot the Ref’.

  8. janh1 says:

    What does an Etruscan peg urn? About 50 drachm a week! Boom, boom!

    Now, now, don’t mention the rugby. The only good thing about Wales losing is that we can thoroughly enjoy watching the All Blacks pulverising the French next Sunday. I will be joining in the Haka in the living room.

    • IsobelandCat says:

      If you can move the cats from in front of the tv presumably….

      • janh1 says:

        Lily is fond of rugby. Anything that moves on TV actually. Roly used to like One Man and His Dog. He thought the sheep were definitely somewhere behind the TV.

    • Peggy Sew says:

      Oh dear, next it will be Morris in the lounge.
      Now, a Maori peg bag, all tongues and forearms, might scare away the blackbirds from the maid in the garden (Are you allowed to say `All Blacks’?) And, Ai say, what a dreadful retribution for those poor Frenchmen, being stitched up and pegged out so far from all that cheese…
      For your further numismatic scholarship,

      • janh1 says:

        Morris, in the lounge, with a candlestick? A very minor altercation. 🙂

        Honestly, Peggy Sew, a Maori peg bag is about as unlikely as a Kath Kidson Haka but probably a hundred times more effective.

        I have one of those pots! They turn your earnings into 0% interest urnings.

  9. IsobelandCat says:

    Oh Jan, that was dreadfully wonderful. Or do I mean wonderfully dreadful?
    Didn’t know you were Basil Brush’s double. The things you learn on WordPress…
    Gosh, doesn’t MyT seem a long long time ago?

  10. janh1 says:

    Dreadful is the word that usually applies, Isobel 🙂 Some things deserve to be remembered.

    It does. I must have another look very soon. There’s an e-book of short stories in the making, I hear.

  11. IsobelandCat says:

    An e-book of short stories? about all the squabbles and fights? It was a soap opera manqué. I keep meaning to go back and retrieve some of my old posts. They remind me of the early days with das Boot.

  12. janh1 says:

    I don’t remember the creatives doing any more serious than taking mild offence occasionally – they weren’t at each other’s throats like some of the others 🙂 I’ve just had a look at the Creative Writing section and it seems a chap called Archie is taking charge of the e-book.

    Good idea to retrieve and archive your stuff, Isobel. You never know when it might suddenly cease to exist on MyT.

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