Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sarah Castle was the daughter of Sarah Anne Hewitt (Fist) Castle and James Castle. I think she was born around 1880. She was, of course, a somewhat elderly aunt when I was a child, and I held her in great veneration. But I was able to find a picture of her in her younger days, complete with bicycle.
Sally never married, but was "in service" for most of her working life. When I knew her, she had retired, but still lived in a cottage on the estate of the people for whom she had worked as a lady's maid. This was in a little village called Ickham near Canterbury in Kent.
I loved to visit her there. The photo shows me on her lawn, with Great-aunt Sally, and my mother's sister Emma.....and a basket of newly picked pears.
It was magical at the cottage. She had a sitting room just filled with wonderful treasures. I remember a big turtle shell in the enormous fireplace. There were examples of Aunt Sally's handwork everywhere. Upstairs there was a little attic bedroom. I used to long to have the opportunity to sleep there, but alas, it never came. Only my older sister had that pleasure, because she was Aunt Sally's goddaughter.
Although Sally was a maid, I do not believe she had a life of drudgery. She was a very creative person. As lady's maid, she had access to the dressmaker's samples that were brought to the "big house" from which Her Ladyship chose her new season's garments.
Being frugal by nature, Sally would take these samples and turn them into Crazypatchwork. She would make cushion covers for all the members of her extended family, with colourful pieces joined with feather stitch.
Sally also made use of scraps of wool. When I was about five, she knitted me a pair of long socks - with stripes every colour of the rainbow, and one sock bearing no resemblance to the other. I just loved them, although I do recall feeling slight embarrassment at the mismatched appearance!
There were orchards near the cottage, and Sally actually used to send us plums through the post. The mails were more reliable in those days! She also sent her bread scraps in the mail to my grandmother for her chickens.
I described the Suffolk puff quilt that she made from scraps of cotton sheeting. The picture below shows Sally's quilt alongside the one my mother made. The puffs in Sally's quilt are smaller and daintier. One of her Crazy patchwork cushions sits on top of her quilt. This is also in my sister's possession today. But I do love to "borrow" it from time to time, because I do believe that my love of crazy patchwork began with great-aunt Sally all those years ago.
The quilt in the middle also has a family history that goes back even further than Aunt Sally.....but more about that another time!

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