Friday, 17 April 2015

A Crocheted Stool Cover

On one of my many (many, many) recent trips to IKEA I bought two Frosta stools. One for the dining room to be used as extra seating should we need it and the other for the porch, to go next to the shoe rack. Whenever my children put their shoes on, they like to sit on either the bottom step of the stairs or right in front of the front door while they battle with laces and straps. Both places are inconvenient for rushed morning exits from the house and I hoped that the stool might encourage a happier, less shouty, departure on school mornings. 

I digress.

So, I had my stools (£8 each, a bargain) but thought them a bit dull and for a long time had fancied making some circular covers. I'd seen a pattern in my Granny Squares book and thought I'd have a go. The pattern is essentially a circle working out from the centre (very similar to a mandala I would imagine) with decreases so that it fits around the stool. If you were reasonably good at crochet you could probably turn any mandala into a stool cover by adding a few rows decreasing, then a few more straight rows to create "sides". 

I thought I'd share how I made mine as, while I liked the pattern on the circular stool top, I found the rest of the pattern (you know, like how to make it actually stay on the stool) a bit lacking in details. 

Make your circle, stopping when it is about 1 cm smaller than stool. 

This is so that your cover remains nice and tight. (Baggy, saggy crochet is as appealing to me as a too-short scarf.)

Then make your decreases, following whatever pattern you're using or just making it up as you go along if you're cleverer than me. Your cover will now look a bit like a floppy fabric tray or bowl.

I found that my stool cover would sit on the stool fine like this, but would slip off the minute anyone sat on it, and so I wanted to make mine more secure. 

Attaching the cover to the stool seemed the safest thing and so I placed the stool cover on the stool and, using safety pins like below, marked where the four stool legs would go.

I worked a row of double crochet stitches between these safety pin markers, leaving the ends long.

Then I used the long ends to tie the cover tightly around each stool leg. 

I didn't know what to do about the dangling thread ends and darning them in seemed like a waste of time as I would inevitably want to remove and wash the stool cover at some point. Washi tape secured them neatly to the underside of the legs.

And there you have one very secure stool cover. It might slip and move a little when you sit on it, but it won't fall off and, more importantly, it wont be baggy.

As well as making the covers, I also jazzed up my stools with some paint, spraying the feet of one pink, and painting the other white. 

How to spray the feet:

First decide which area you want to paint, wrapping masking tape carefully and securely around each foot, making sure they're all the same height. Then cover your entire stool apart from the parts you want to spray paint. This stuff gets everywhere. I used a combination of old tea towels, kitchen paper and masking tape to wrap mine up. To get the coverage I wanted, my project took four light coats of paint, with a couple of hours drying time between each one.

When the paint is dry, unwrap your stool and carefully peel away the masking tape on each foot. You should be rewarded with a nice clean line. Ahhh, so satisfying!

Like peeling off a plaster, but prettier.

The pink-footed stool lives in the dining room, while this one below is for the porch. I painted the whole stool white (two coats of undercoat, two of white eggshell) and used the same shade of green as the one on the walls, with white, pink and black for the cover. 

It looks great in the porch, next to that shoe rack, and is so far being used as somewhere to dump stuff like bags and lunchboxes while the children continue to put their shoes on right in front of the door or sitting on the bottom step of the stairs. 

Monday, 13 April 2015

Back Home

I was curious to see how it would feel when we pulled into the drive after our break in Durham, if it would feel like coming home or just back to a house we are currently living in, like when you return to a holiday rental after a day out. Home but not home. This was the first time we'd been away and when we returned it did feel like coming home, but better, due to the added frisson of letting ourselves into the house and being bowled over by the newness of it all. I'm sure this wear off with time but I'm enjoying the novelty while it lasts.

The weather continues to be gorgeous. This afternoon my sister and I sat outside in the garden in deckchairs while we drank tea and chatted. In April! Lovely. My main observation in all this good weather is that I think the house is going to be an absolute oven in the summer. All those big windows, the chalet style roof, the south-west frontage - it will be warm. Luckily the air is cool now (and still cold at night) so open windows keep everything comfortable, and the kids' rooms are at the north-east facing rear of the house so hopefully they'll sleep comfortably when it's hot. If it gets hot. I realise I am already doing that typically British thing of running away with myself after a sunny spell, planning barbecues and imagining the beautiful spring and summer ahead....

I am in love with our bedroom, especially the window. I sat there the other day, cross legged on the floor, hemming the curtains, and the sun was pouring in and a gentle breeze was wafting around me and it was bliss.

The room has a door and window which open onto a balcony which runs along the front of the house. It's so retro, I love it. It's more a feature of when the house was built than a place I'd sit, but I like to go out there and look up and down the road.

To my left, the suburbs are becoming greener by the day. 

And to my right, down the hill to the dead end at the bottom of the road, to the cemetery beyond, it's all trees and sunsets. I like to just go out there and look around. 

We fixed two picture rails to the wall, joined together to make one long display space. I really love how this looks and enjoyed taking all our pictures out of bubble wrap to choose some to go here. I love how a picture or print can look so different depending on where you position it and what you put it next to.

I finally got round to painting over the plaster on the chimney breast. As predicted, it took longer to carefully cover the mantel, hearth and stove to protect them from splashes as it did to paint it all. 

It looks great now it's painted and I will take photos soon. I am struggling with how to decorate the mantel, what to put on it. It's massive, both in width and in the height to the ceiling. A jug of tulips looks lost on it. It's needs something big and sculptural, like maybe some blossom or pussy willow in a really tall, thin vase. And hanging pictures is tricky due to the asymmetrical chimney breast. Nothing looks straight or centred. I think a group of pictures or some propped on the wooden mantel will be the way to go. Anyway, it's a nice problem to have. 

We still have another week to go of the Easter holidays. The kids are doing well, happy and rested. Having good weather and the option of playing outside makes everything easier. Or course the tablets still come in very handy after a hard afternoon's partying.

I've been really busy crafting away lately, mainly crocheted things for the house. Two stool covers, a small wall hanging. I finally taught myself the crocodile (or scale) stitch, and I'm really pleased with how that came out. Bella's blanket is underway. I'm not sure about the colours but she chose them so I guess I just have to go with it. Anyway, lots to show you all soon. 

Friday, 10 April 2015

Beach Jewels

Hasn't the weather been absolutely glorious this week? Just beautiful. Even up here in the North East (where we've spent a lovely few days) it's been sunny and mild. I say "even" as I have been coming here long enough to know that it always feels cooler up here, and that the cold north sea wind blows hard. On Wednesday we visited Seaham beach, on the Durham coastline. It's not somewhere I'd been before, but since reading Caroline's post last summer, I was very keen to go. Seaham beach, it turns out, is absolutely full of sea glass. Seriously, I have never seen so much in one place before. We found all this in the space of a couple of hours:

Not to mention this pottery:

I was particularly keen to find some "end of day" glass, so called because the local glass factories (long since closed) would tip waste glass into the sea at the end of the working day. It tends to have variegated patterns and different colours. This was our haul:

The pink piece (pink sea glass!!) is about 1 cm across, to give you some idea of scale, so quite small.

Looking for sea glass is enormously, incredibly, relaxing. It was absolute heaven to wander up and down the beach, scanning the pebbles to see what treasure lay hiding there. John and the kids joined in. 

Actually, Bella is completely obsessed with sea glass and has appropriated all that we found on Seaham beach to add to her already quite large collection. There are also some excellent rock pools and on a warmer day I'd have been in them, flip flops on, paddling around.

Occasionally we would find a kind of seam of glass, a small area rich in it, and if you pushed your hands in and under the pebbles there was more hiding, waiting to be found. It's a cliche to say that a piece of wet beach glass glistens like a jewel, but it's true, it does.

And of course the fun doesn't end when you leave the beach, as when you get home you get to play with the treasure, sorting and arranging your haul. Look, it's like a paint box of colour.

If you want to read more about Seaham sea glass, Emma of Silverpebble wrote a great post about it, and if you type "Seaham Sea Glass" into a search engine there is a lot more information out there. 

* * * 

Thank you for your kind words about our new home and all your good wishes. I am sorry I've been such a bad blogger lately, not visiting or saying hello, but I'll be back properly soon. Not having broadband has been both liberating and constraining. I've had a much, much more time to do other things without the siren call of the laptop, but often, when I've just wanted to check something (bank balance) or buy something or look something up, I've really missed it. And I've missed you all too.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015


Hello there! It's been too long, I miss blogging, I miss you lot. We are staying with John's family in Durham at the moment and I'm taking advantage of their internet connection to have a quick catch up and share some recent photos. Our broadband should be connected this weekend and then normal online life can resume, thank goodness. 

I am glad to say that we are settling in to our new home, and much more quickly than I thought we would. I guess that's because we've had the keys since the end of January and one or other of us has been there most days, paintbrush or drill in hand, and so now we're actually living there is all feels quite normal. 

The kids keep saying "It's the first..." about everything; the first meal, the first bath, the first hair wash, the first night's sleep. They love to count things, how many nights they've slept in their new beds, things like that. I was amazed how quickly they settled down on the first night. I was braced for either giddiness or tears, and just had two kids very glad to be in their familiar beds. 

John and I have been enjoying "firsts" too - the first fire, in our much longed for wood burning stove. I can build a fire now, I know all about kindling and seasoning wood and all sorts. We've only lit a few, and now spring seems to be well and truly here they may be the last until next autumn.

The first big food shop. After three months of staying with my parents, I really enjoyed the autonomy of shopping just for the four of us, of planning the meals and then going and buying the food, of exploring a new supermarket. I spent much longer filling the fridge than I normally would. I am just enjoying being back in my own domestic space and doing the tasks and chores I would normally rush through.

The first crochet project. It will be a blanket for Bella, in colours and a pattern entirely of her own choosing (a rainbow zigzag). I started the dreaded foundation chain and first rows today and hope to finish it by next autumn. Set realistic goals, that's what I've learnt with blankets.

Our first Easter. There wasn't time for much in the way of decorating, but I did find the box marked "Easter decs" and put up a few things around the house.

We ate our first roast dinner on Easter Sunday, a leg of lamb, and invited my parents to come and share it with us. It was so nice to be able to cook for them; they've been brilliant these last few months, steadfastly supportive, loving and helpful, and we owe them a great deal. 

For pudding, I made my first lemon meringue pie. I even made the pastry! Clearly that pastry below is homemade, I mean look at the state of it.

It came out well, although I think a sweet shortcrust pastry base may have been nicer than the plain one. Good meringue-peak-action though, I was pleased with that.

Our living room is coming together. Most of those boxes behind the sofa, in front of the window, held books. 

As soon as John had bolted the bookcases to the wall I spent an idyllic few hours one evening unpacking and alphabetising the books. They are divided into fiction, poetry and reference. Sorting books into alphabetical order might be a lot of peoples idea of hell, but I can tell you that it was both soothing and satisfying. I worked in a bookshop for some years before having the kids, and I like to think it's a habit I learnt there, but in truth I suspect I'm the kind of person who would alphabetise them anyway.

However the cookery books, which are kept in the dining room for ease of access in the kitchen, I arranged by colour. I don't need these to be alphabetical - I don't think I have that many and can find them all quickly by their spines. This arranging was as pleasing and enjoyable as the A-Z fiction, let me tell you. 

When I come downstairs in the morning and walk from room to room, opening curtains, switching on the kettle, I can't believe this house is ours. I love it so much. It thrills me! It's coming together and I am happy.