Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Kitchen-Diner Refresh

Hello! Before anything else, I want to say a massive thank you for your brilliant, thoughtful and encouraging comments on my last post about not buying new clothes throughout 2020. It is heartening to know that so many of you are doing similar. Also, I am very aware that a choice like this - and decluttering the home too, for that matter - is one of privilege. To have enough clothes that we can choose not to buy new, to have such a surfeit of belongings that we feel the need to regularly clear out clutter - this comes from a place of privilege, and I recognise that. I also hear what you're saying about the cost of fabric and yarn when you want to make your own clothes, and how expensive that can become. It's something I weigh up carefully myself, buying fabric on sale and asking for yarn store vouchers for birthday and Christmas. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and views with me.


Anyway, we've been doing a bit of decorating and I am very excited to show you the results. The kitchen-diner has needed a lick of paint for some time and John recently spent a week long holiday (ha!) painting, sanding and sawing to give the room a bit of a lift. This was the previous colour, (Empirical Grey by Valspar) which we only painted on one wall.

I was very keen that the whole room be white but thank goodness John talked me out of it. 

Instead we went for Pleat by Little Greene paint*, a sort of green-blue-grey depending on the light and time of day. I was very worried that the room would be dark but it's north-east facing with large windows so gets pretty good, consistent light throughout the day so it's fine. I did however buy a set of Cable and Cotton lights in white which, when lit, give a much warmer glow to the whole room, very necessary on a gloomy January afternoon.

As well as buying emulsion for the walls, we bought a one litre tin of satinwood for the metal and wood, painting the radiator in the same colour. John made this fabulous picture rail to my specifications, designed to run the whole length of the wall. Similar to the IKEA picture ledges I love so much, it's deeper so can hold small vases or candlesticks as well as pictures and prints. It's made from MDF and painted in the Pleat satinwood paint.

I had a lot of fun arranging prints (these were all above our bed before) alongside books, magazines and other bits and bobs.

As you can see below, we continued the new paint colour around the corner and onto the wall which leads into the living room, which had previously been white.

This is what it looked like before:

It was completely John's idea to continue the paint colour and I have to hand it to him, it looks so much better.

I just love the shelves so much. We kept the same white brackets that were there before but John primed and painted them in the same paint as the radiator and picture ledge so that they almost disappear into the wall. We said goodbye to the cheap white contiboard shelves that were there before (chewed by Ziggy as a puppy) and put them in the garage where they will get another lease of life, and bought some wood from our local timber yard. 

It is pine window sill board with a rolled edge, which I like because it looks a bit more finished. John cut it to size at home, then sanded it and gave it a coat of Danish natural wood oil.

The wood adds so much warmth to that corner of the room and I had a lot of fun faffing with books and plants, seeing which colours work against the deep green-blue.

As much as possible, I have tried to use things we already have; the spindle backed chairs below, bought on eBay a few years ago and painted, were previously upstairs at my dressing table and the desk in the spare room. I fancied a change so I swapped them around, and like the white against the new paint colour. All the other pictures, curtains, books, plants, pots etc we already had and I just love how refreshed they look in a different room against a newly painted wall. We spent money on paint, wood, MDF and the new set of fairy lights.

This is the view from the kitchen door. 

I smile every time I walk into the room.

* This was my first time using this paint and I like it a lot. It's not cheap but the quality and depth of colour are incredible. We only needed two coats to paint over both the grey and white walls, meaning we could buy a smaller pot. I know from experience that a cheaper brand would have needed three coats. I would definitely use them again if I wanted a strong colour but probably wouldn't bother if I was just painting pure white. 

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Visible Mending

Just before Christmas, while giving the bathroom a quick spruce before people arrived, I splashed bleach onto this yellow linen dress from Seasalt. I only bought it last autumn and it is one of the most worn items in my wardrobe as it's so versatile and easy to wear. If spilling cleaning products onto new clothes is ringing bells here, you'd be right, as last summer I managed to splash a big blob of bleach onto a pair of cords (also Seasalt, how annoying) and then had to embroider them to cover the stain

At first I was really, really cross: I do not buy a lot of new clothes, and try to buy quality over quantity, and this dress was not cheap. But on closer inspection the two stains were on and next to the pocket, so I thought embroidering over the marks might actually work quite well.

As before, I took the pattern from the beautiful book A Year of Embroidery by Yumiko Higuchi, drawing the flowers and seed heads freehand onto the fabric with a fading pen.

I decided to keep the colour of the stitches the same, using an off-white as it looks really nice against the mustard yellow.

I also added a few stitches to the other pocket, to make try and it look a little more intentional.

I'm so happy with how it turned out. I think I possibly like it even more now. (I have also stopped using bleach.)

A few other items in need of repair had built up in my craft basket which I decided to address. This pair of crochet bed socks have already been mended once which says a lot about how much I wear them.

Rather than just sew up the holes, I had a look online and came across visible mending, where the garment's tear or flaw is mended in such a way that it almost draws attention to it as something unique and beautiful. With woollen garments, I liked the approach of creating little running stitches that go up, down and across the fabric, covering over the holes as you go. Probably based on the Japanese sashiko method of repair, it is nicer to walk on underfoot than a lump of sewn-together wool, and relaxing to sew. 

I also had a few holes in a very much loved long grey cardigan which is ideal for throwing over dresses at work or jeans at home. 

I had thought about patching or embroidering the cardigan, but decided to use the same running stitch style of mending in a soft pink cashmerino yarn I had in my scrap basket. 

While I probably couldn't get away with wearing it to work now (it's getting a bit bobbly) it's still a much worn item in my weekend wardrobe.

While we're on the topic of clothes, I made the decision last week not to buy any brand new clothes during 2020. I have enough clothes and can't think of anything I desperately need, and I am hoping that this will give me a chance to make sure I really get good wear out of everything I own. I've found a couple of great accounts on Instagram around not buying new clothes and they are unbelievably inspiring. I have a few rules:

  • I can buy brand new underwear, including tights.
  • I can buy second hand: charity shops, eBay, Depop etc
  • I can make my own clothes, whether that's sewn or crocheted
  • I'm allowed new clothes/jewellery for birthday presents

I'd love to hear of any experiences you have of not buying new clothes. Wish me luck!

Friday, 17 January 2020


 So far this month, I have been enjoying:

:: Getting back into my usual routines of weekend cooking, making salads for my lunches and baking flapjacks and cookies for the cake tin. There is still a very little bit of Christmas cake left, too.

:: Bare branches against a winter sky. I love how this tree looked like it had little pompoms hung on the branches.

A tempting bedside reading pile, a mixture of Christmas presents and new purchases. Unusually for me, there's more non-fiction than fiction here, and I've been enjoying early nights with these books. Although I try to read downstairs, I find myself too easily distracted. In bed before going to sleep seems to be the only time and place I can read with any real concentration - until I nod off.

Mincemeat porridge. Recommended by a lovely colleague friend, it proved the perfect way to use up the half a jar left in the fridge after Christmas. I usually stir the mincemeat into the porridge just after pouring it into the bowl, then let it stand for a minute of two, while the preserve heats through and dissolves into the grains, and the porridge cools down a little. A sprinkling of demerara or muscovado sugar here is very good, too. It's a very decadent way to start the day.

:: Admiring, and trying to photograph, last weekend's full moon.

:: The afternoon light. Sightings of the sun have been rare and precious this winter.

:: A new crochet project, especially when it's on an 8mm hook with chunky yarn and works up quickly. This will be a jumper.

:: Getting out and about at the weekends. 

:: My usual January "itchy feet" approach to decorating. Once Christmas is over, I always find myself looking at our home afresh, dreaming up ways we can refresh and improve the space we have.

The kitchen-diner has really needed a fresh coat of paint for a while now. It's such a high traffic room, constantly in use by all of us, with a muddy dog going in and out of the garden the whole time - it was looking dirty and tired. We decided to keep the white paint in the kitchen but change the grey in the dining half of the room. I will share pictures as soon as I have some.

I moved the six framed embroideries that had previously hung on the grey wall in the kitchen-diner and added them to the big family gallery wall in the living room, where I much prefer them. I plan to fill the whole wall eventually, given half a chance. 

Other January treats await, including buying Seville oranges to make marmalade, more reading, more walking, more crochet. There will also be more decorating and then, inevitably, more faffing and pottering. I love winter.