Monday, 16 July 2018


I don't think we've had any real rain in our corner of England since the end of May. We've had the occasional light drizzle, the kind that evaporates in the heat before it even soaks in to the ground, but no heavy showers. I dreamt the other night that we'd had a downpour and was convinced that I'd turned over in bed to the sound of rain through the open windows, but sadly not. 

I'm watering the plants alternate nights and using the sprinkler as sparingly as I can, maybe twice a week for half an hour at a time, but the grass is more yellow than green now. Every time I run the cold tap for a glass of water I take the washing up bowl out into the garden and throw whatever's in there over the nearest pot, which happens to be the sweet peas, and they are doing nicely.

I'm picking them as fast as they grow and enjoying their sweet fragrance around the house.

My tea consumption has rapidly dropped and been replaced by iced coffee. I still have a cup of tea first thing in the morning, but mid morning and after school I just want something cold. One shot of espresso poured over ice and topped up with milk is my favourite thing.

I extended the theme with coffee and maple ice lollies, from The Modern Cook’s Year. Made up of equal quantities full fat milk and natural yogurt with espresso and maple syrup, you just blend it all together and pour into moulds. They are definitely not for the children, but ideal when I am feeling in need of both being picked up and cooled down at the same time but can't really justify an espresso martini.

I am overrun with redcurrants and blackcurrants at the moment, and very happily so. I forgot to weigh the redcurrants but had enough to make a batch of jelly (this recipe) which I then turned into a sweet chilli dipping sauce, and we ate that with Thai fish cakes and a cucumber salad with a bottle of cold beer, on our laps while watching England play Sweden last week.

I picked a kilo of blackcurrants though, and have half as much again in the freezer from last year. I am thinking ice cream and jam, but all these currants deserve a post of their own. I am obsessed with the soft fruit season and, while I haven't baked for weeks (too hot), I have been cooking and eating so much fruit. Some disappointing plums, a bruised nectarine and some too-soft strawberries were all stewed with a little sugar into a compote and I've been eating it with Greek yogurt for breakfast.

Our weekend dog walks have been shorter and later, and successfully combined with early evening drinks in pub beer gardens. Ziggy does pester for a crisp though.

The last two Sunday afternoons were spent at the beach, with dips in the sea both times, and it's becoming a routine that I enjoy, the upside to this heat. We finish school this Friday and I'm at a point where I am tired, quite grumpy and very busy, with a messy house, full washing basket and overdue phone calls and emails. I'm at once fed up with the heat but not ready to say goodbye to it yet, because it's about to be the school holidays, and no-one wants cool, grey, wet weather for the six weeks that the children are home, do they? I don't. 

Thank you so much for your comments on my suitcase craft room. I haven't had a response to a post like that in ages, and it was lovely. Thank you. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

A Miniature Craft Room in a Suitcase

Every now and then a crafting project comes along that sweeps you off your feet and captures your imagination in a way that nothing else can, and this was one such project. The idea of a room in a suitcase, or a portable dolls house, came from issue 93 of Mollie Makes and was created, along with some patterns for you to make at home, by Bethan of Little Lucciola, who makes and sells these little wonders from her Etsy shop, and you can see the room she created for the magazine in the photo below.

As soon as I saw Bethan's room in Mollie Makes, with the setting, styling and attention to detail, I felt so inspired to have a go at something similar myself. I had a chat with Bella and she wanted very much to get involved so we ordered a suitcase and made a plan.

Would you like a tour? You can hang your bag and coat on the peg rail right there. 

Pull up the stool at the desk and switch on the radio. The pencils are sharpened and knitting needles ready, fabric folded and paper rolled. 

The standing lamp behind the chair gives a soft light for reading. 

Take a seat in the arm chair - your current WIP is in a basket at your feet....

....and there's a lovely soft alpaca throw if you're cold.

Coffee or tea? I'll put the kettle on.

The footstool is a handy spare seat and the rug will keep your toes warm on those floorboards. 

Wouldn't you love a craft room like this? Oh, I would. I'd move in if I could. There's so much here I love; the table with the hairpin legs, the chair, the rug, the details like wall hangings and posters, the peg rail, the plants and little copper watering can... 

As always with this kind of project, I can hear a voice asking what and who it is for. Is it a toy? Is it for display? Aren't your children a bit old for this kind of thing? (At nine and eleven, NO!) Bella will play with this with her Maileg mice, and she and Angus were very involved in the making of the various parts. Even if they weren't actually cutting or painting or gluing, they were very often sat with me at the kitchen table while I was working on it, asking questions, suggesting things, playing with or making other things. But it's not really robust enough to seriously be a toy, some care does need to be taken with the furniture and tiny parts inside, some of which are sharp. So is it for me? Well the pleasure for me was in the making. Now it's finished, I have no use for it really, it was all about the process, and what an indulgent, imaginative and totally enjoyable one it was. 

I've spent a few hours over the last few weeks looking at dolls houses and miniatures online and it is so seductive. Not the period, Victorian style collectables, that's not my cup of tea, but I love it when people create a modern home, like you'd actually live in, in miniature. And when the interior design is beautiful too, even better. It's an internet rabbit hole I quite happily fell down and I could, with enough time and money, get quite obsessed with the miniature world so it's probably best for everyone if I don't. I'll just stick to small projects like suitcases for now.


I tried, as much as possible, to use things I already had. To just go out and buy everything ready made from a dolls house supply website seemed too easy, not to mention expensive. The fun for me is in making these little things, especially if I can repurpose something ordinary from around the house. Over the years I've amassed a reasonable collection of useful crafting tools and kit such as a glue gun, spray paint in various colours, beads and buttons in different sizes, string, yarn etc so I didn't need to buy much. I did spend around £20 on some pieces of balsa wood in various sizes and thicknesses, a small amount of wooden dowel, wooden discs and some more chunky wooden beads. I also bought the suitcase, which at £15 for a set of three seemed good value, and the two smaller cases are already in use in Bella's bedroom. I also, with the children's permission of course, took some small accessories from their Playmobil sets and perked them up a little. 


The thing I always want to know when seeing handmade miniatures is how they were made, so below I've listed everything I made for anyone who might be interested. Please ask in the comments if there is anything you'd like to know.

Suitcase: this measures approximately 30 x 20 x 10 cm. I painted the inside with white emulsion and drew on floorboards with pencil and ruler. On the back wall, I used crafting paper to create a half-wall of wallpaper, and used a strip of balsa wood to make a picture ledge that ran above it. 

 Desk: a small piece of balsa wood and four long hair/kirby grips. I slightly opened each grip and sprayed them copper before gluing them to the underside of the table.

Basket: a plastic lid from a bottle of mouthwash covered with glue and wrapped around with string (and all done, including the rolls of paper, by Bella).

Chair: small squares of foam covered in grey fabric (living room curtain off-cuts) with balsa wood arms and legs.

Bookcase: pinched from Bella's existing dolls house and sprayed white, then stocked with folded fabric and felt.

 Lampshade: a plastic roll-on deodorant lid sprayed copper.

Textiles: a knitted throw (some lovely alpaca yarn on 3mm needles) and a chunky crochet cushion (cotton yarn on a 3mm hook).

Coffee table: a wooden disc, bought just like that, and wooden dowel legs glued on.

Yarn basket: wool felt sewn together on each corner with blanket stitch. The balls of yarn are little pieces of plastic straw with wool wrapped tightly around each with a needle, and the knitting needles are tooth picks with a tiny wooden bead glued to the top.

Rug: now this is ingenious and, like the yarn and knitting needles, one of the patterns that came with the magazine. You draw your circle shapes onto a sheet of paper, then stick clear plastic over the top. You gradually glue your spirals of string until you have the desired shape then wait for it to dry, them simply peel away the plastic sheet. It's ingenious.

Footstool: just dark grey wool yarn in DC, stuffed with toy stuffing.

Standing lamp: the base is three lengths of dowel glued together and the shade is a section of the inner tube of toilet roll covered in fabric.

Plants: chunky wooden beads, sprayed copper or left natural, and filled with small bits I snipped off any fake plants I could find in the house. The trailing plant is just embroidery silk threaded with tiny random pieces of felt.

Desk accessories: the needles sit in the lid from a spray bottle of leave-in conditioner, while the pencils are in a Playmobil bucket that I spray painted copper. The knitting needles are toothpicks topped with beads as before, and pins. The pencils are toothpicks snapped in half with their tips coloured with felt pen. Angus made those.

Other accessories: all Playmobil parts taken and repurposed. I especially love the little copper watering can. It was purple before. 

Wall hanging: a curtain ring sprayed copper and hung with small lengths of cotton yarn.

Stool: a  plastic milk bottle lid, four hair grips and an off-cut of fake sheepskin. As with the desk, the hair grips were stretched open and sprayed before being glued to the sheepskin-covered lid.

Pictures: possibly my favourite part. I found photos on my computer and edited them so that they were tightly cropped and with exaggerated colour and contrast, so they showed up well. I cut and pasted them into a Word document, played around with size, then printed them onto white card. The frames are just crafting matchsticks.

I do hope you've enjoyed looking around this tiny room. If you have a favourite corner or item I'd love to hear it.