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My family

52 Ancestors: Week 49 – Handmade

I am taking part in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge for 2021. The challenge is organised by Amy Johnson Crow who provides a weekly writing prompt. I should have completed all 52 prompts by now, but I will do so as soon as possible.

There was never any question over who this prompt would be about. It always had to be about my Mum. She is one of the most talented needlewomen I know.

I have just had a look through her Facebook page and here are some of her makes from 2021. Many of the quilts and blankets are given to charities such as Project Linus.

All images above (c) Vera Hopkinson 2021.

I just had a quick look around our house for things Mum has made, there are the living room curtains, and two patchwork duvet covers. These are just a selection of what I found on a very quick look. I’m afraid I’ll offend her by what is left out!

I asked her how it all began. After all, she was crafting long before I was born. I remember wearing handmade clothes as a young child. There were some jumpers that were knitted in three different sizes so that I could wear them at the same time as my siblings.

Images: Photograph. Vera Hopkinson knitting. 01 July 2018. Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochant. Max Hopkinson.

“I have been sewing all my life, since before I can remember. I say that because I remember a pot holder at my maternal grandmother’s house that was always called “Vera”. It was a pretty scruffy thing and I remember asking, when I was aged about 8 why it has my name, and the answer was that I had given it to my Grandma as a Christmas present when I was 3. I can only assume my Paternal Grandmother who lived next door to us had been the one to get me to make it.

Some of my earliest memories are of being taught to use my Grandma’s treadle sewing machine. I wasn’t tall enough to reach the pedal, so she would sit me on her knee and she would operate the treadle while I guided the fabric under the needle. When I was about 7 she started teaching me embroidery and when I was 8 I was entering competitions run by the local Methodist church. I don’t think I ever won, but when I cleared out my mother’s house I found some of the work I had done, and I had difficulty believing I had been so young when I did it.

I learnt to knit in my early teens, and to crochet while I was a student. There aren’t many yarn or fabric crafts I haven’t had a go at. When my children were small I made a lot of their clothes, and they must have felt they were OK because 3 of them asked me to make their wedding dresses. In the event I only made 2, because the 3rd was having quite a short engagement and with my mother being very ill we decided time was too short.

I used to knit for my grandchildren, but now they are older they don’t really like handknits anymore! However, a few years ago one of them insisted in saving up any damaged to toys for my visits because she was sure “Grandma can fix it”

Now there is hardly a day goes by that I don’t get at my sewing machine, usually making patchwork quilts. All the family have several, and I make them for Project Linus, who give them to “Children in need of a hug”. In the evenings while watching TV I usually have either a crochet hook or knitting needles in my hands. During lockdown I gave a number of handmade blankets to people who had lost loved ones. I called them “woolly hugs” because I couldn’t give them the hug they really needed.”

Images: Photograph. Ruth and Tony Willmore. 07 June 2008. Tan-y-Bwlch station, Ffestiniog Railway, Maentwrog. [photographer unknown] Private collection of Ruth and Tony Willmore.
Embroidered by Vera Hopkinson, aged 8.

Other posts about this family

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Operation Bletchley wildlife

12 Days of Christmas, Day 12

Over the 12 Days of Christmas, as we leave 2020 behind and step into 2021 I set myself 3 challenges.

  • 12 Days Wild, to complete a daily “random act of wildness” exploring the winter wildlife.
  • Operation Bletchley: Christmas in Berlin 24 MILES: 12 CODES: 12 DAYS. A fundraising challenge for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity which involves walking and codebreaking
  • Building the Lego Hogwarts Castle kit, my Christmas present to myself.

Well, as day 12 comes to a close I’m very proud to say Mission Accomplished.

For my 12th random act of wildness I decided to bring a bit of nature to my computer workstation. I spend a lot of time here, researching family history, helping with the Rhos Helyg Locoworks admin, and so on. I already have a window bird feeder in front of me but I have ordered a couple more window feeders including one for fat balls. I found some “Flutter Butter” and a window mounted holder for them. I’ve also ordered a wild bird water drinker to hang in the apple tree in front of the window.

I am looking forward to seeing more of the garden birds as I work.

I completed Operation Bletchley. In 12 days walked 24 miles and solved more than 24 codes. Mum and I tried to finish the hardest Cypher Expert level but we still had 6 unsolved codes including several we just did not know where to start. Admitting defeat graciously seemed the best course of action. I will still receive a medal for completing Codebreaker and Junior Levels. I would be delighted if you could click on the link to sponsor me. I believe donations remain open until the end of January 2021. https://events.soldierscharity.org/fundraisers/RuthWillmore/operation-bletchley

I have also just finished Lego Hogwarts Castle. I am delighted with it. It has been really good fun to build, very rewarding and an incredible level of detail. I loved Lego as a child and during furlough have built a few of the smaller Harry Potter themed kits, including several purchased second hand on eBay. This was a huge treat, something I have wanted to do for several years. You can view the completed model at this YouTube link.

I also purchased a lighting kit, but I really can’t recommend it. Hugely disappointing. The instructions for it are in Chinese only. The pictures included don’t appear to really match either the contents of the lighting kit or or the Lego kit itself. I should have known better than to buy a cheap product that wasn’t from Lego themselves. I managed to fit some bits, but ended up with wires trailing. I felt they should be hidden but couldn’t see how to do it. Other parts of the lighting kit I couldn’t fathom at all. I’ve requested a refund.

I am now looking forward to spending more of my time researching family history, both my own and for a few other people who have asked me to look into their origins.

I will be keeping up with daily walks, even if only to one of the graveyards that I am transcribing, or just the the war memorial to play Pokemon.

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Pentrefelin

12 Days of Christmas, day 6

Over the 12 Days of Christmas, as we leave 2020 behind and step into 2021 I have 3 challenges in progress.

  • 12 Days Wild, to complete a daily “random act of wildness” exploring the winter wildlife.
  • Operation Bletchley: Christmas in Berlin 24 MILES: 12 CODES: 12 DAYS. A fundraising challenge for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity which involves walking and codebreaking
  • Building the Lego Hogwarts Castle kit, my Christmas present to myself.

I woke this morning to a winter wonderland. Not a blanket of snow, but there must have been a frost, followed by hail. Even now at 4pm the grass is covered in a layer of white. It is pretty if cold, and not very motivating to get outside.

We were running low on milk so made a quick dash into town this morning. It turned out not to be as quick as we hoped after first scraping all the ice off the car windows the car slid around on the icy road outside the house. Our little estate doesn’t get gritted. I ended up getting out to push.

When we got home the sun was out so I set off on a walk, As my random act of wildness I had a close look at the ice, it is very pretty, both from a distance and underfoot.

I also noticed this intriguing phenomenon on the pavement.

Each circle has a small pebble in the middle. They must have held some heat and caused the frost around them to melt.

By the time I had spun the Pokestop about half a mile from home it was raining, and once round the block it was hailing. I decided it was just too unpleasant to be out and came home as rapidly as the slippery pavements allowed. As most days I’ve walked just over 2 miles I think I’m still on target for 24 miles in 12 days.

As on previous days I woke to another set of codes to break in my inbox. The Junior one was very straightforward, and the Codebreaker didn’t take me long. The Cypher one though, lets just say I had a lot of help from Mum, and Google. I got there in the end though. That is half way through the challenge so right on target.

Hogwarts now has a giant chessboard, a potions classroom and a room of requirement. I had forgotten how much I enjoy building Lego.

Happy New Year to everyone reading. I hope that you are able to find a way to celebrate if you wish to do so. I’ll be taking part in a Zoom quiz with my pub quiz team.

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Uncategorized

12 Days of Christmas, day 5

Over the 12 Days of Christmas, as we leave 2020 behind and step into 2021 I have 3 challenges in progress.

  • 12 Days Wild, to complete a daily “random act of wildness” exploring the winter wildlife.
  • Operation Bletchley: Christmas in Berlin 24 MILES: 12 CODES: 12 DAYS. A fundraising challenge for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity which involves walking and codebreaking
  • Building the Lego Hogwarts Castle kit, my Christmas present to myself.

Life has actually settled into a bit of a Twixmas routine, wake up late, make a coffee, have a look at the newly arrived Operation Bletchley codes and then set my computer up to earn a few pennies on Swagbucks, while I get on with Lego quietly until Tony wakes up. Have you ever tried building Lego quietly? It adds a whole new dimension to searching for the right tiny brick.

Then it is breakfast while doing the Harry Potter quiz on Alexa. Once I have hit my daily target on Swagbucks I head out for my walk. Then home, some lunch and a nod to some housework before spending the afternoon and evening building Lego, relaxing, eating Christmas treats, and TV.

So, it was really good last night to break up the routine a bit by meeting up virtually with my Mum and siblings for an escape room. We’ve done a few over the various lockdowns, and as we’re all now in the Welsh Alert level 4 where nothing fun is allowed, or English Tier 4 areas, it seemed like a good time for another. We chose Santa’s Christmas Rush from Escape Rooms Durham and really enjoyed it. We had to use Google maps and Street View to solve clues helping Santa deliver the last few presents around the world. It was great to virtually visit Lapland. Two clues were in places that I have previously visited, the boardwalk in Santa Cruz which I loved, and Bergun in Switzerland with its toboggan run and railway museum. Highly recommended, and we’ll be back to do some more. They have a free “Mr-X” trial if you would like to give it a go. You’ll need something like Zoom, and each household joining in needs to be able to access Google Maps and Street View. If that is on a different device to the video call that might be even better.

I had to call into a Post Office today so used the essential journey to begin my walk away from home. I was able to play Pokemon, including a successful raid while walking my two miles. I walked mainly in Coed Nyseri, which gave me a chance to search for fungi. I found two bracket fungi which, from iNaturalist, I think are Chondrostereum. I’m more than happy to be corrected.

I also spotted a tree with a few Christmas decorations, it really made me smile that someone had taken the trouble to do that.

I have just done some calculations and I think I have now walked 13.5 miles so I should have another set of Operation Bletchley codes in the morning, and perhaps two sets on New Years Day. A little reminder that I would love to receive some sponsorship for this challenge. I solved the 5th Junior code with no trouble at all this morning, but struggled with the Codebreaker level until Mum helped with a little prompt. I’ve not attempted the Cypher Expert level as yet, I can see what needs doing, and that type of puzzle I find really difficult. I’ll definitely come back to it at some point though.

As for the Lego, I’m now about half way through book 3 of 4, and bag 25 of 37. This morning I built Professor Snape’s dungeon potions classroom. The detail achieved continues to impress me.

Spot the wonderful Harry Potter bunting, a present from my sister.

I’m eagerly awaiting an email to find out the details of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2021. I’m looking forward to completing an entire year of blogging about my ancestors, and researching their stories.

Categories
Pentrefelin

12 Days of Christmas, day 4

Over the 12 Days of Christmas, as we leave 2020 behind and step into 2021 I have 3 challenges in progress.

  • 12 Days Wild, to complete a daily “random act of wildness” exploring the winter wildlife.
  • Operation Bletchley: Christmas in Berlin 24 MILES: 12 CODES: 12 DAYS. A fundraising challenge for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity which involves walking and codebreaking
  • Building the Lego Hogwarts Castle kit, my Christmas present to myself.

I woke this morning to hear rain pounding on the roof and the window. What a contrast to yesterday. I did eventually drag myself out of bed, and waiting for me was code 4 of the Operation Bletchley challenge. Once again I fairly easily solved the Junior and Codebreaker levels. I messaged Mum about Cryptic clue 3, and we both got that one, after a little mental gymnastics to remember long forgotten binary. A short prompt from Mum and with a bit of help from Google (my comprehensive school education didn’t include lacrosse!) I solved Cryptic clue 4.

We were then on a roll and between us managed the cryptic crossword, which just leaves the first Cryptic level code unbroken so far.

After a cooked brunch, far too late in the morning to call it breakfast, and doing some chores I dragged myself out for a walk. Far less motivation than yesterday. I just about managed to dodge the drizzle but the sky was grey and if I didn’t have to walk 24 miles in 12 days for the Operation Bletchley challenge I might have struggled to get out at all today.

For #12DaysWild I decided to try to photograph a rainbow today. Taking a series of pictures of plants to make the rainbow sequence of colours. I easily found some red berries, and realised that finding orange leaves this late in the year was harder than I anticipated. I did find some orange lichen on a branch though. I was spoiled for choice for yellow with, a buttercup, primrose, hawthorn and a dog rose all growing along side the path.

I spotted pennywort growing in a wall for green and then turned to look for blue sky. I was delighted to spot an entire rainbow! There are some advantages to a drizzly day.

There were some blue patches in the cloudy sky. I spotted some indigo coloured berries which Google Lens tells me are ivy. I didn’t spend long up at the church today, it was cold, windy and damp. I did replace the geocache logbook with a dry one though. Finally on my way back home I saw violet periwinkles and red campion flowers in the hedgerows.

Pleased with logging another 2.5 miles towards Operation Bletchley I was looking forward to a hot bowl of soup. Rounding the corner I heard a bird cheeping in our tamarisk tree. A solitary blue tit. I stood and watched him for a while.

Lego Hogwarts castle is coming along. I built Hagrid’s Hut before breakfast. It is certainly a lot easier when Ludo cat stays out of the way on the heated window sill propagator rather trying to “help”.

I feel a sense of achievement, and no guilt at all about spending the rest of the day eating up Christmas food and building Lego while I wait for another set of codes, possibly 2 sets if I’ve calculated my miles correctly.

Categories
Pentrefelin

12 Days of Christmas, day 3

Over the 12 Days of Christmas, as we leave 2020 behind and step into 2021 I have 3 challenges in progress.

  • 12 Days Wild, to complete a daily “random act of wildness” exploring the winter wildlife.
  • Operation Bletchley: Christmas in Berlin 24 MILES: 12 CODES: 12 DAYS. A fundraising challenge for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity which involves walking and codebreaking
  • Building the Lego Hogwarts Castle kit, my Christmas present to myself.

Today was one of those beautiful, crisp, clear winter mornings. Blue sky, a dusting of snow on the mountains and cold, but dry air. I didn’t need much motivation to put on my coat, hat and gloves and set off on a walk. I know some places in the UK had snow overnight, my sister sent pictures of the snowman my nieces built.

Snow on the mountains and a beautiful blue sky.

After all the rain we have had in the last few days I decided to walk up to St Cynhaeren church today as it is paved all the way. I have no idea why the church was built a mile out of the village but it makes a nice walk now.

As usual I first headed to the War Memorial which is the village Pokestop (vital for Pokémon players!), and then pocketed my phone and just listened as I walked. At first there was some traffic noise, mainly car engines. Once I left Pentrefelin village even the birds were quiet and for some of the time literally all I could hear were my own footsteps. I loved the peace today. I couldn’t resist whipping out my phone to use as a camera a couple of times, the snow topped mountains, and calm sea were too pretty not to take a snap.

A calm sea in the background.

Once up at the Church I checked on my geocache, and found the logbook a little wet. With hindsight I should have brought it home to dry it out. Duh! Guess where I’ll be walking again tomorrow!

I could hear the “caw” of some crows up at the church, but surprisingly no sheep today. I took pictures of a few more gravestones ready to transcribe them in the new year. Walking back down, I thought I heard a cuckoo but that would be unlikely this time of year, maybe an owl? I’m not sure. I stopped briefly to chat to a neighbour, just the inevitable conversation about the weather.

Approaching the main road there was a single car horn, and a few more car engines. Then there was a very loud tractor making its way along the main road. Walking back towards home there was an immense chatter of birds in the hedge. At first glance I couldn’t see them, but a minute or two standing still and I got my eye in. Just sparrows, but lots of them.

A couple of the noisy sparrows in the hedgerow.

The last sound I noticed as I approached our house was a solitary dog bark from up at the farm.

That was another 2.6 miles towards Operation Bletchley so I can expect the fourth code email to arrive shortly. I have submitted answers for Junior and Codebreaker levels for all the codes received so far. I think the third cryptic code has something to do with binary but I haven’t cracked it yet.

Yesterday I completed another challenge that I had almost forgotten about. Weeks ago I signed up to the Snowman Sketch Challenge for Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. The idea being to map a walk or run using Strava or similar to make an image of a snowman. A challenge that is probably easier in an urban environment with a plethora of footpaths to choose from. Here I had to be a bit creative, but I hope you like my effort.

It isn’t too late to have a go yourself, just submit your picture by the end of the year, or if you prefer, make a donation to the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation here. https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/SnowmanSketchChallenge2020

The Lego Hogwarts Castle is progressing too, I’m almost at the end of book 2 of the instructions. By the end of the book I think the tower containing moving staircases, Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom and Dumbledore’s office will be complete.

Categories
Pentrefelin

12 Days of Christmas, day 2

Over the 12 Days of Christmas, as we leave 2020 behind and step into 2021 I have 3 challenges in progress.

  • 12 Days Wild, to complete a daily “random act of wildness” exploring the winter wildlife.
  • Operation Bletchley: Christmas in Berlin 24 MILES: 12 CODES: 12 DAYS. A fundraising challenge for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity which involves walking and codebreaking
  • Building the Lego Hogwarts Castle kit, my Christmas present to myself.

I’m pleased to report that I am making progress on all three challenges I have set myself for the 12 days of Christmas.

I am back from todays 2 mile walk. I used the walk to check on some of my geocaches today, and sadly one of them has been “muggled”, i.e. it isn’t there anymore. There is a horse grazing nearby so I will not replace the cache until the horse returns to its usual field.

For the 12 Days Wild challenge I hoped to find a feather or fungi today, but failed on both counts. However, I did see several varieties of wildflower.

I have finished the 13th bag of Lego, and Hogwarts Castle has a roof on the Great Hall. I am really impressed with the stained glass window effect created. Inside, the house banners have been erected, the student dining tables are lined up, and the statue of the architect is visible just outside the Great Hall door.

I love the detail in this kit.

Early this morning I received the second set of codes for Operation Bletchley. Over a turkey, cheddar and cranberry sandwich I solved Junior and Codebreaker levels. I have yet to tackle the Cryptic level, maybe a glass of mulled wine later will help. While I am mainly completing this challenge for fun, and to motivate me to walk, it is designed as a fundraiser, so it you have a spare Pound or two and could consider sponsoring me I would be very grateful.

I have not yet quite hit my step target for today, so I might end up walking on the spot while we watch Christmas University Challenge later on. For now, a mince pie and Lego.

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Pentrefelin

12 Days of Christmas, day 1

Technically I think today is the 2nd day of Christmas, but at this time of year, especially this year, who knows what day it is! Yesterday was all about roasting turkey, building Lego and relaxing. I don’t know about you, but the fridge Jenga seems to be even harder today than it was a couple of days ago.

Anyway, I’m afraid I have 12 Days in which I probably will write very little about genealogy. Indulge me, or just don’t read, entirely up to you.

Shortly before Christmas I treated myself to the Lego Hogwarts Castle kit. I believe it is the second largest Lego kit available, and I’ve wanted it for years. I saw it reduced, and as we’ve not had a holiday this year I splashed out. I broke into the box on Christmas Eve, and I’ve just finished bag 8 of 37.

Ludo trying to help with the Lego building work.

I have two “12 days” challenges going on, which I think will fit well together. The first is “12 Days of Wild Christmas” arranged by The Wildlife Trusts. The idea is to complete a random act of wildness each day. Today I chose to look for a pinecone on my walk, so I headed out in a direction which I knew there are some pine trees. I was successful and will be turning my pinecone into a Christmas tree decoration later on. Why not join me over the next 12 days to get out and explore the wildlife in your area.

Some paint pens, a cork, a scrap of ribbon and some star stickers.

My second challenge is “Operation Bletchley: Christmas in Berlin”.

24 MILES: 12 CODES: 12 DAYS

I’ve connected my Fitbit to the website, and each time I walk 2 miles I’ll receive another code to break. At the end of the 12 days I have to submit my final message to win. The codes are in 3 levels, so if all else fails I can submit the Junior level answer, though I’m hoping to manage at least Codebreaker level, even if Cypher Expert level is beyond me. My walk this morning took me 2.6 miles, so the first code is in my inbox. As soon as I finish writing this I’ll get a cup of hot chocolate (is it too early to add Baileys?) and a slice of homemade stollen, to begin code cracking.

If you have a £1 or two spare and would like to sponsor me in aid of ABF The Soldiers Charity I would be very grateful.

Here are a few pictures of the places my walk took me today. I know I am very lucky to have this on my doorstep.

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Beginnings

How it all began

Well this is scary…. I’ve never written a blog before, and writing text was never my strong point in school and university. Please bear with me while I figure out how all this works.


I thought I remembered that I had starting tracing my family history when my Grandmother inherited a widow’s ring, but while searching for something else I realised that it goes back further than that. I can tell you the exact date I began, 13th October 1984, thanks to a book I discovered buried in the bottom of my “family history box”. I’m surprised by how much of the book 10 year old me filled in. Another item added to my ever growing to-do list is to work through the book ensuring that all the information I gathered back then, when I could actually speak to my grandparents, is included in my family history.

Front page of Trace Your Family Tree by Margaret Crush completed by Ruth.

I had a copy of Trace Your Family Tree by Margaret Crush for my initial foray into family history research. It was all completed by interviewing family members, back then there was no Ancestry website, and I certainly didn’t visit any archive offices, I doubt I even knew what a census return was.

Here is 10 year old me, sitting on Hadrian’s Wall. Back then I wrote in the book that I lived in Macclesfield, had two sisters, brown hair and blue eyes, that I didn’t like spellings, but did like maths and trains. Well some of that has changed. I now have three siblings and have more or less mastered spelling. I did a degree in maths and education before moving to North Wales, where through the Ffestiniog Railway I met my husband, Tony. Trains are still very much part of our lives, he runs Rhos Helyg Locomotive Works a garden railway specialist and my full time job is as a tour consultant for Ffestiniog Travel, booking holidays for rail enthusiasts.
My other loves include Harry Potter, Jane Austen novels and fanfiction and our cats. During furlough I’ve been walking regularly, visiting the graveyards in Pentrefelin to transcribe the headstones, finding geocaches and Pokemon.

10 year old Ruth at Hadrians Wall
10 year old Ruth at Hadrian’s Wall