Welcome to month five of London Town, Parliament Square.
This month - at the halfway point in our block of the month - we're stopping to check the time with, arguably, the world's most famous clock: Big Ben in Parliament Square.
The name Big Ben actually refers to the bell that strikes the hours, rather than the clock tower, which was renamed the Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to celebrate the late Queen's diamond jubilee. It's not the first clock tower at Westminster: a 14th century tower housed the first public chiming clock in England, but fell into disrepair and was replaced, rather bizarrely, by a sundial in 1707, leaving nearby St. Paul's cathedral to chime the hours.
The old Palace of Westminster - the seat of government for 800 years - was destroyed by fire in 1834. The new Palace, designed in the Gothic style of neighbouring Westminster Abbey, included a magnificent clock tower. The clock was constructed to the designs of amateur horologist Edmund Beckett Denison. Denison's wonderfully named ‘Double Three-Legged Gravity Escapement’ ensured the clock’s accuracy despite external factors like wind pressure on the hands, although the original cast-iron hands were too heavy and had to be replaced with copper ones. It began keeping time on the 31st May, 1859.
The first time the chimes of Big Ben were heard outside of Westminster was on the 31st of December 1923, when the BBC broadcast them to the nation to ring in the New Year. The midnight chimes of Big Ben are now a traditional part of New Year's Eve celebrations in London and on screens across the UK.
This month we are also making our smart Grenadier Guard block, using gold embroidery thread to embellish his uniform, which is included in your parcels along with navy thread for Big Ben's clock face.
This month's technique...
This month we are adding a touch of applique and simple embroidery to our Big Ben block to create its iconic clock face.
Tracing a circle can be quite challenging (and who can ever find a compass when they need one) so this month's tip is to raid your drinks cabinet for a suitably sized glass, using the template as a size guide: so much easier to draw around.
I've chosen to use needle-turn applique, but if you prefer fusible raw-edge applique then that would look marvellous too.
I've a bit of housekeeping to do this month. Firstly, North American friends, I gave you all - not least, Andrea - a fright by including the Union Jack background fabric in my parcels last month. Andrea is not able to send out that fabric until next month. Apologies for the confusion!
And while we're on the subject of Union Jacks, I'd like to draw your attention to a typo in the pattern: in step 3 (page 54) you are asked to cut 2” x WOF strips then subcut 1½” x 7½” pieces when, of course, they should be 2” x 7½” pieces. Thanks for spotting the error Lindsey (and sorry for the unpicking!!)
Lastly, for those of you who are new to placement templates, please do look at this blog post, which will be helpful when making Big Ben's roof (which is, essentially, a triangle-in-a-square block). And this blog post, which covers the basic principles of using placement templates and some extra trimming tips.