Masson Mills


In 1783 Sir Richard Arkwright built his impressive Masson Mill, just up the River Derwent from the existing Cromford Mill. Masson was a cotton mill, from bales of cotton to woven cloth, the only thing that didn’t happen here was any colour dying of the cotton thread. It was the oldest continually running mill in the world, finally closing in 1991. Now the old paper mill that stood next to the cotton mill is a shopping village, but the lower floor of the cotton mill is a museum, still full of machinery for preparing, carding, spinning, and weaving the cotton. When we visited one of the doubling machines was busy making string and some of the weaving machines from the 1800’s were started up for a demonstration. Just 3 machines were incredibly loud, a whole factory must have been deafening -apparently the workers had to communicate with sign language and lip reading. It’s a fascinating place; a building full of history, lost knowledge and huge equipment all powered by the river. Most of the machinery is no longer in use but this place was a part of the industrial revolution, this kind of machinery and factory system completely changed British production and the way people lived and worked.

I find it really interesting but I can’t identify much of the machinery! From the top left: Jacquard looms for weaving fancy patterns using punch cards, a doubling machine, ‘the Devil’ cotton bail shredder, an 1800’s Lancashire loom, and part of the cotton preparation process.

Thread, string, and cotton fabric manufactured in the mill using the old machinery, as well as old bobbins and shuttles are available to buy – I have a couple of offcuts to create something with 🙂


Masson Mill is located between Matlock Bath and Cromford in Northern Derbyshire and is open Monday to Sunday with 2 machine demonstrations each day. Go in the summer, it was freezing in March!

Easy pillowcase swap

I recently took part in my first proper sewing swap on Swap-bot! The swap was for an pillowcase using a simple tube method with 3 fabrics. The instructions in the swap directed us to this video, but I think there’s plenty of similar instructions out there.

Sent to USA:

My swap partner likes pink and red, so a raid of the fabric stalls in the market produced a couple of nicely contrasting patterns with similar colours. I used a wide woven ribbon for the small strip of fabric because it coordinated better than anything else I had. I also added some text detail with freehand machine embroidery. And French seams too! I was really pleased with how it looks.

I was a bit uncertain about the size of the pillowcase, it seemed really wide for my pillows, but my swap partner was really happy with it 🙂 and the pillowcase I received is a similar width so it must be the design. Are American pillows wider than UK pillows?!
Received from USA:

I was a bit uncertain about what I might receive but look at this! A perfectly coordinated beautiful floral fabric pillowcase. It’s really well made with French seams and sharp corners. The sender told me she made lots of these as Christmas gifts, so maybe practice makes perfect 🙂

I’m looking forward to finding my next sewing swap now!


Today seems like a good day to share my photos from last Saturdays trip to London. My brother lives down there now, and although it’s not a cheap journey it’s only 1.5 hours to get there and it’s slowly occurring to me that it doesn’t have to be a major event to go to the big city.

Yesterdays news was heartbreaking and incomprehensible, like all such events. I can’t stop myself from feeling a little nervous but I refuse to let a few hateful and destructive people stop me from enjoying living and travelling. London is a wonderful city to explore and with my irregular visits there’s still so much I haven’t seen, so I’ll definitely be heading back soon. And out to see the world too, I believe there’s still a lot of good out there.

From the top: view over Greenwich to Canary Wharf, Buckingham Palace from St. James Park, Big Ben viewed from Westminster Pier, the Tower of London, the Shard, and Tower Bridge.

Problem post

Conspiracy theories and advice welcome! A couple of recently arrived letters have had me a little puzzled, for very different reasons.

The first puzzle is what on earth happened to this letter?!

A rectangular quarter of the envelope has been ripped away, and unfortunately that’s the corner the letter was in! Luckily only my postcode was torn away so it found me easily enough. It arrived in a Royal Mail ‘sorry it’s damaged but we found it like this’ bag so presumably it had a tough journey from the USA. I can half make out the letter but I’ll have to ask for the details to be repeated 🙂

The second puzzle is more of a social dilemma – what do I write letters for and when should I stop?

This letter came from a penfriend in Dominica who I found on the Postcrossing forum. I think this is the 4th letter. The first and second letter were almost identical as she’d clearly forgotten I’d written before. This letter has been redirected from my previous address, and I’ve been moved for 6 months now. (My redirection runs out in the summer and I think anyone who hasn’t written in a year probably never will.) In this envelope is a postcard, a short handwritten note, and a mass produced typed letter with basically the same message apologising for the late reply but that over 200 (?!) letters were a lot to deal with so in future everyone will receive a typed letter or possibly a written postcard. I don’t know if I’m reading it right that everyone will receive the same mass produced letter, and what she’s really interested in is swapping postcards/ magnets/ bookmarks etc. but I’m wondering how much effort I should put in when realistically she can’t have much time for everyone? Or should I keep replying as long as I receive something back? Would she notice if I never replied? I’ve sometimes had fairly numerous pen friends but I’ve made sure it’s no more that I can deal with because any type of friendship takes effort. Even snail mail has social dilemmas but I’ve never been great at figuring out what to do…

In more cheerful news, look at these lovely homemade and decorated envelopes 🙂 All awaiting reply…so that’s tomorrow’s entertainment sorted!

Slice and bake biscuits

It’s been a while since I did any baking, but I’ve given up milk in all things for lent (with slight exceptions for a few social events and a holiday because I need a social life and a trip away too much) and the main things I can’t get around are sweet things. I went to a cafe and missed out on cake! I am truly making sacrifices 🙂 There are some dairy free options in the supermarket but they’re primarily gluten free and often a little odd so I decided to take action – with dairy free spread instead of butter obviously.

I’ve posted about these type of biscuits before, they’re a really easy way to keep a stash of ready-to-cook deliciousness. I made the last large batch at the start of October and they were finally finished in mid-December. Also useful if there’s only one of you who would otherwise have to eat all of them within a few days or (the horror of it) share them. I last made some to this recipe, and recently discovered this recipe from A Beautiful Mess for a vanilla and thyme version. I used rosemary because in my kitchen it was that or Herbes de Provence… I also made a second batch with honeycomb pieces. They’re all delicious but this time I’m finding it much harder than I remember to slice the dough when the biscuit logs are straight out of the freezer. The recipes are very similar (and both taste really good) and the only difference I can see is that the second recipe contains slightly more butter – I don’t know enough about baking to know if it could make the difference. Much defrosting to soften it and I’m finding the dough becomes sticky and squishy. Once I’ve munched my way though this batch I’ll try the other recipe again for a comparison.

Slight issue with the honeycomb pieces – they caramelise and leave gooey holes in the biscuits, but also create toffee like patches so no complaints!

For the vanilla and rosemary version I used a mix of vanilla sugar, ground vanilla beans from a little pre-loaded grinder I have, and vanilla essence. All together it smells and tastes great! It’s not a flavour I’d have thought of but the delicate herbal taste is lovely and very moreish.

Any biscuits with hot chocolate is a great combination! Now I’m off to bake a few more…

Month of Letters – 24th to the end

So Friday night (24th Feb) I did a load of of letter writing and swap sorting, spent a small fortune on postage of Saturday, had visitors on Sunday, then woke up on Monday and decided I really wasn’t well enough to do things like get out of bed. Probably explains my tiredness for the past week… But I have just about posted an item every day this month, with a couple of delays and make up days.

To finish the monthly report – outgoing post:

25th – My final item for the swap-bot ‘month of happy mail’ swap. I made a weeks worth of positive notes and little gifts – 7 notes and gifts individually wrapped. It’s based on another swap I once did and really enjoyed.

I wrote a few nice quotes and some hopefully cheerful notes on a variety of postcards and note cards, then put each note in separate envelopes with a little wrapped gift. I raided my little gifts stash, I hope they enjoy everything. I did forget to pack the chocolate raisins so I’ve eaten them instead!

26th – Technically posted the day before, I sent off a swap for a homemade pillow case. I’ll post about it separately soon.

27th / 28th – I started to recover from my cold/ flu type thing to realise there’s 3 birthdays coming up in the next week or so! So I dug out a few cards, and added a little gift and letter to one to a penfriend. There’s only 1 I’m fully confident will arrive in time!

The round-up:

In February I’ve posted 31 items to 10 different countries – UK, USA, India, Netherlands, Slovenia, Italy, Germany, Russia, Turkey, and Australia. I’ve spent £47.32 in postage. I have one letter to write still outstanding that I feel a little guilty for being so slow to reply to, but it’s a first letter and I want to do a good job of it.

I don’t as fully track incoming post, just enjoy it and blog about it occasionally, but I’ve had a whole mix of stuff. I don’t think I’ve received more than normal despite sending nearly every day, but maybe that benefit will come as replies over time.
I’ve also realised I do much better at keeping to resolutions when I have a challenge to meet, even if there’s no competition or consequences. Maybe especially then, it’s just me trying to be better but not stressing over anything extra. I don’t have great will-power or determination so I need something else as well… The next challenge begins as the last one ends – now it’s Lent! Can I really fully give up milk instead of the half-way I’ve been doing for years? And will it make much difference? Let’s find out…