Friday, 31 August 2018

Making the Seasons: August

Each month, when I introduce my Making the Seasons post, I waffle on a bit about how important it is for me to make time - even when I'm stupidly busy - to do something crafty and creative, about how good that is for my mental health and general well being, and it's absolutely true. I really do think that and never have I felt it so much as this month. I'm up to my eyeballs in dust and renovations (which, ahem, may have slightly slipped from my control...) and about to go back to work next week, and feeling a little overwhelmed by life if I'm honest. 

I had plans this week of a day sewing quietly with Radio 4 on in the background, perhaps making my dress, then doing some baking, maybe a little yoga...instead I am right in the middle of ripping up flooring and general mess and so I decided that what I would love to do would be to hand stamp some fabric and make a new peg bag and ironing board cover. I don't know why but it did, and still does, seem like a good idea.

The idea came about when I was distracted in IKEA last week by the fabric section. I had been looking for something to replace my horrible burnt, stained ironing board cover (I have a really bad habit of leaving the iron face down on the fabric while moving the clothes around, rather than moving it to the rack at the end, if that makes sense) but couldn't see anything just right. So, remembering I had half a jar of fabric paint left over from Angus's blind, I bought two metres of plain white cotton and decided to do some more potato stamping.

I love these lines of semi circles and the potatoes give the perfect amount of irregularity to the rows. With this paint, you simply iron the paint onto the fabric to seal it, and then it's good to be used and washed. Remember to put scrap fabric under and on top of your freshly stamped piece to avoid the paint seeping into your ironing board cover or staining your iron while you seal it. 

To make the cover, I just cut the fabric into an approximate ironing board shape plus a generous seam allowance and sewed a deep hem all the way around leaving a gap at the top for the elastic. Then, once the elastic is inserted into the hem with a safety pin, you pull it tight and knot it, simple as that. 

I fancied a smaller print for the peg bag so I used a pen lid and deodorant lid as my tools and just stamped them into an ink pad, and stamped away on the fabric.

I played around with a mixture of rows, interlocking circles and dots, and then heat sealed with the iron in the same way as the paint.

While I am loving the absence of colour here (so quiet! so calm!) I do feel that this peg bag is a little blah and would be enormously improved by a bright yellow or pink ribbon trim along the opening, but I didn't have any to hand. I may yet buy some and hand sew it on. That's if Ziggy doesn't grab it off the washing line and chew it to pieces first, like he did the last one. 

I am enjoying this suggestion of domestic bliss in the form of these everyday, utilitarian objects, all clean and new.

I am also enjoying the benefits of a closely cropped image, because when you zoom out...'s still a building site, and there's still a big pile of ironing to do and a never ending amount of washing to peg out on the line.

Please do pop along to Lucy's beautiful blog, Attic24, and read her Making the Seasons post. I am so enjoying this monthly project and can't believe this is the tenth post! 

Monday, 27 August 2018


Well hello! Thank you for your comments on my last post, it's great to hear that so many of your are fans of the Camber dress pattern. I haven't even started it yet because I've been a bit busy. I didn't mean to leave it so long between posts, what with this being the summer holidays and all this free time I'm supposed to have, but we've been occupied with a little light renovation at home lately with two rooms being turned upside down.

We've embarked on a project in our hall; the removal of our cupboard under the stairs, and the wall between the porch/entryway and the hall, with the idea that this will make the whole space lighter and more spacious. Our hallway is dark and narrow, and the end nearest the kitchen and bathroom gets very gloomy (and when we ever get around to replacing the internal doors we will definitely put a glass door between the kitchen and hall, for the borrowed light) but removing the cupboard and wall has already made a huge difference. The cupboard isn't that necessary for the storage, as next to it is a large walk in cupboard where we keep all our shoes and coats, and opposite is the door to the internal garage, where I will from now on be keeping things like the vacuum. 

Anyway, here are some progress photos for you. They are not pretty, and only snapped on my phone, but I thought you might like to see what we've been up to.

This is the cupboard under the stairs, as it was.

 The door and plasterboard was removed...

...then the panelling...

...until we were able to remove the carpet from the stairs...

...and the stair risers to expose the original, sixties staircase.

Here's a before and after photo:

Now, a word or two about these stairs; yes, we are aware that open, wooden stairs have their risks and we would never consider doing such a project with young children in the house. As it is, ours are nine and eleven and no more likely to fall on/through the stairs than I am. At the moment the stairs are so caked in glue that no-one will be slipping any time soon, but when they've been sanded and treated we will be adding a discreet but safe anti-slip strip to each wooden stair. As for them being open, I love this feature. It's not to everyone's taste, and I know some people find open stairs disconcerting to walk up and down - I get that, spiral staircases freak me out - but I think it's a beautiful original feature and I'm so happy to be restoring those stairs. 

Safety announcement aside, I love the way the light falls through the wooden slats and we plan to put the shoe storage unit under here with the children's shoes in it.

Next, the removal of the porch window and door.

 Once the glass panels had been carefully removed the wooden surround came out. John and my Dad did the heavy lifting here, while I offered helpful suggestions.

There is obviously some repair work to be done to the walls, ceiling and floor around the old threshold, but already the sense of space is amazing. 

Here's another before and after:

 Since then, my Dad and John have been plastering around the old threshold.

While my mum and I have been removing the paint from the stairs and metalwork. I know this photo looks a lot like the one above but there are hours and hours of scraping and rubbing down in this photo.

We now need to:

  • finish plastering/filling/sanding the walls
  • decorate walls and ceiling
  • sand and treat the stairs
  • paint the metalwork under the stairs (colour in dispute at the moment!)
  • remove the old laminate flooring
  • lay a new floor - John is very excited about doing this himself.

So we will be living in a bit of a building site for the next month or so as we are doing all the work ourselves, but I will keep you updated.

The second project that has taken up so much of our time is Bella's bedroom. I think Bella's bedroom has undergone more changes and transformations than any other room in our house (the last one here), but that's because it's absolutely tiny and she keeps on growing, so I am constantly thinking about ways to maximise every last inch of space in that room and adapt it to her changing needs. This time, is was the sudden realisation that the child's wardrobe she'd had since she was two was no longer big enough to hold her clothes and that it was high time she got something more suitable.

This time there was no decorating, but a day spent in IKEA and another day spent removing furniture, assembling furniture, putting furniture back, and also having a major sort out of all clothes, books, toys etc and the inevitable trips to tip, charity shop etc that this entails. Her new wardrobe is perfect and her old one was donated to a charity shop locally that takes furniture. 

We had fun though. Bella chose a few new postcards in IKEA and arranged a little gallery wall to go above her desk. She laid it out on the floor, then I took a photo of it and banged all the nails into the wall as per her instructions. We are a good team, Bella and I, when we're doing stuff like this. She may not want to craft, but she is creative and has a good eye.

Everything else in her room was already there, but it's just been moved around. 

We both really like her bed under the window there, and she loves to arrange cushions along the length so it's like a sofa.

Ah, my little pre-teen girl, she's growing up.

Sunday, 19 August 2018


Clothkits, Chichester

The nicest part of going away is always the coming home bit, don't you think? I've really enjoyed spending the last few days at home, catching up with friends, family and myself. Re-grouping. I've tackled the garden and the housework, done what seemed like a truly never ending amount of washing, phoned doctors, dentists and hairdressers and made endless appointment, just got myself organised. It felt good. I've also been baking a lot more since the weather turned cooler, making tea loaf, chocolate banana bread and a flourless orange and almond cake. I'm nesting. 

We had friends to stay over the weekend and spent yesterday in Chichester. The children loved The Novium Museum, especially the Lego exhibition, and I bought these postcards of some of my favourite local places.

After successfully leaving the children with their Dads in a bookshop, my friend Abigail and I hotfooted it to Clothkits for a browse. Well, I don't know quite what came over me, but I found myself buying a pattern for a dress, and a couple of metres of beautiful teal blue linen.

It's a beginner's pattern and I've been assured by a colleague who's made a couple that it really is a simple make, so I'm optimistic that I can do this. Can you imagine if I made an actual dress, that I could wear? I'd have to tell everyone.

More delightful craftiness arrived in the form of the Summer Craftpod. I've mentioned these here before, I know, but I am a massive fan. This set includes a sweet rose cross stitch (designed by Lucy of Attic24!), and embroidered needle book along with the bits that make these boxes so thoughtful and pleasurable to open; a postcard, rose pin badge and tea.

The fabric for the cross stitch is aida with holes that are clear to see, so I was hoping that Bella might give it a try. She's a very creative girl but most determined to steer clear of anything that I enjoy doing, which on the one hand makes me sad, but on the other I totally get, because I was just like that, always wanting to do my own thing. The more I push and suggest, the less interested she is, so I have to go gently.

Before our holiday, I went through my stash of fabrics and started thinking about finally making that EPP patchwork quilt. I read and read about it until my head started to spin, to the point where I was researching needle types, then went to my local yarn shop which also sells quilting fabric and supplies. The woman who runs it is wonderfully no-nonsense and down to earth. She showed me which needle and thread would be best, and said to just get on with it and come in and show me when you've made it. 

I've decided to do 3 inch hexagons and I'm not sure yet exactly how many I'll need for a king size quilt but I think it's going to be five or six hundred. That actually makes me feel a little faint, typing that, but I've thought about this so much and I really want the hexagons to be small and mostly pale in colour. I have decided to hand baste each hexagon onto the paper template because I enjoy it and I'm not in a rush to finish this. It's going to be a slow burner of a project, probably something that will take a few years, off and on, and I'm quite happy about that really. I'm always in such a rush to do everything that I think I sometimes lose that mindful feeling of being in the present that gentle hand stitching, or crochet or knitting, can give you. 

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Postcards from Devon

Fields near our barn in Waddeton
Berry Head Nature Reserve 
Brixham Harbour
Fishing boats in Brixham Harbour
Stoke Gabriel
Lichen on a boat cover

The past few weeks have been a blur of travelling and visiting, packing and unpacking. Not long after we finished school and work we were in Durham, then back for a couple of nights before heading to the West Country for a week, then the children and I went to stay with my friend Abigail and her family, arriving home today. I am looking forward to not packing or unpacking anything for a few weeks, not spending so much time sitting in the car, and catching up on washing, admin, emails, blogs, sleeping in my own bed, just a bit of nesting. 

Amid all this travelling our break in Devon was a blissful week of blue skies and relaxed family time. I seem to have taken a hundred photos but everything was so pretty; the fields so close to harvest time; the fishing boats clustered in the harbours; the brightly painted houses which hug the hills around the River Dart, and the landscape while slopes so sharply down to the river. It's all beautiful.

We stayed with my parents in a little hamlet called Waddeton in a converted barn and I cannot say enough good things about this place which was beautifully converted with lots of space indoors and out, a well equipped kitchen, amazing showers, huge comfortable beds and very dog friendly too. This was the first time we'd travelled with Ziggy and it went really well. He's much happier in the car then he ever used to be and came out and about with us each day, enjoying lots of walks and sniffs. 

Here, in roughly the order we visited each place, are my holiday highlights.

:: Berry Head Nature Reserve ::

We found a bird hide with the most spectacular view and spent ages in there looking out, sharing one pair of binoculars. I loved the way the hide windows concentrated the view and we were fascinated by the brave/mad people climbing on the rock face and jumping into the water below.

:: Exploring the bustling fishing town of Brixham ::

We wandered around the harbour watching all the activity, stopping for a coffee, and bought Cornish Pasties to take home for lunch. 

:: Crabbing at Stoke Gabriel ::

Despite living as near to the coast as we do, Bella and Angus had never been crabbing before, and I think it was the highlight of their holiday.

Stoke Gabriel is such a pretty village and one of the few places where you feel like you've escaped the inevitable crowds of holidaymakers that fill the West Country every summer.

:: Visiting Dartmouth ::

We took a steam train for the first leg of our journey to the town of Kingswear, which was all very Agatha Christie, although sadly we didn't get time to visit the Greenway Estate, her holiday home, then crossed the River Dart by passenger ferry.

Approaching Dartmouth by boat is a lovely way to arrive as you get such a nice view and don't have to try to find anywhere to park.

Dartmouth is one of my favourite places in Devon and the most interesting town, full of maritime history and lots of independent shops, cafes and restaurants. 

We bought crab sandwiches from a tiny shop that only really sold crab sandwiches, and ate them in the park looking over the harbour. It was lovely. 

:: Thurlstone Rock ::

This was at the end of the week and the weather was starting to change, but it didn't stop us spending hours exploring the rock pools and clambering over the rocks.

That hat Angus is wearing below is his pride and joy. We bought is when we realised we'd  left his sunhat at home, and he loves it so much. It has poppers and clips and a mosquito net, and he insists on wearing it whatever the weather. 

Overall it was a really restful trip. We were out and about a lot, but at a very leisurely pace, and we spent a lot of time relaxing back at the barn. The only bad thing I can say about the week is that we didn't get time to fit in a cream tea. There's no embroidered holiday diary this year, but I read, watched films, crocheted and sewed a lot. I've started a blanket and an EPP quilt - lots to show you soon!