Friday, 28 April 2017

Petal Power and a Reshuffle

Hello readers, I hope this post finds you well, this Friday evening of the Bank Holiday weekend.  Thank you for all your comments on my last blog post, it was so good to be welcomed back.  It feels like only yesterday that I wrote it but I'm thinking it probably wasn't.  Hmm!

We're most definitely in my Den today, the epicentre of my little world.  I've been doing reasonably well at carving out some crafty time and I'm here to share my latest project and a few images of my Den with you, too.  I've started with  a piccy of The Stash.  It was quite funny on Instagram as when I posted this photo (a little hazy in the super-bright sunshine that day), I received a few "WOW" type comments and others along the lines of "Is this a shop?" or "I can't believe you have such a lot".  What I didn't dare tell them was that this was just a portion of it.  My name is Hen and I am a Fabricoholic.

I could have started with this picture below as it starts the story of The Reshuffle.  I'm not conviced it is quite as arresting as The Stash, though.

For a good while, I have hankered after having my sewing machine positioned in a tabletop such that the bed of the machine is flat with the table.  Do you know what I mean?  You can buy cabinets for this purpose such as those made by Horn, for example, but not only are they really pricey, I'm not personally that mad keen on the look of them.  Then I saw an idea on Pinterest and another on IG, to craft your own flat bed table.  I've been on the lookout for something suitable and the other Saturday at Bridport street market (where else?!), one of the sellers we know well, had this fairly unexciting modern pine table.  It seemed a suitable size, it was good and sturdy and priced at just £45.  In the back of the Disco (that's a Landrover Discovery, by the way) it went and home to the safety of the HenHouse courtyard where it met up the Mr's toolbag.  Don't you just love a handyman.

Sometime later, the Mr had, of course, done a perfect job of sanding and repainting the table, cutting the hole and making a shelf to support the machine.  There was Jenny Janome in her new table.  I am enjoying using her tremendously and find the position much better for my posture and all round working.  It did necessitate a bit of a move round in my Den to get the new table in and as luck would have it, the new layout works soooooooo much better.  I wish I'd done that in the first place.  Silly old me.

I've been able to move my ironing board from blocking the front of one of my bookcases over to in front of the window.  How's that for an ironing board with a view?  Ah, the beauty of Smiling Somerset never fails to please and I love watching the changing of the seasons.  Everything is growing crazily and greening up quite nicely about now.  A photograph can never do this view justice, however.

On to my latest project.  You may recall that I'm very much a fan of Lori Holt of Bee in my Bonnet.  I enjoyed her first Christmas sewalong (the quilt top may still need sandwiching and quilting, yikes!) and I was pretty much addicted to Farm Girl Vintage (another one to finish in the near future) so when Lori announced that she was bringing out a new book, fabric line, new templates and hosting a brand new sewalong, I got pretty darned excited!  As I understand it, this will involve both pieced blocks like Farm Girl Vintage and blocks using templates and appliqué.  I realised I had better have a practise at the appliqué before everything kicks off in August and as it so happens, I already had an unused set of Bloom templates waiting in the wings as in the end, I hadn't found time to join in the Bloom sewalong when it took place on Lori's blog last year.  Happy days!  I wasted no time in printing out the free pattern for the Bloom blocks and getting right on down to some quality stitchy action using the instructions on Lori's blog.  Each block has a blog post of its very own as Lori holds your hand through how to make each one.  (They're easy to find in the right hand sidebar of her blog.)

I had no plans to make an entire quilt, let me be clear.  I would just try out a few blocks and use those to make into something, maybe pot holders, a table runner, who knows?  I found making these blocks fitted well into my daily schedule.  I enjoyed choosing a block, selecting the fabrics, cutting out the shapes and stitching them using Lori's interfacing method (detailed on her blog), to prepare the block ready for appliqué in front of the TV in the evening.

Reader, I got a little bit hooked on those pretty Bloom blocks.  Soon, I was looking forward to my appliqué fix every day and I was loving how portable the project was, too.  I had to go to London twice in the space of two weeks and the train journey had never been so enjoyable!

Around this time, something in my grey matter started whirring.  I remembered that somewhere I had seen some Bloom flowers which were a little different for they involved patchwork shapes.  Well, I love nothing more than a spot of patchwork so off I went trawling back through Lori's blog posts and there I found full images and details of the patchwork flowers Lori had made.  Yay!

Before too long, my collection of Bloom blocks had grown.  Petal Power!!!

I've now made sixteen blocks and I am pondering what to do next and I am also at that stage of feeling sad that my Bloom time is coming to an end.  There are four blocks remaining which are rather different in style, not quite so obviously individual flowers like these.  I'm not sure if I want to make those, I don't like them as much but then again, they may provide a nice balance to the quilt if I maybe use them in the four corners of the quilt.  I could otherwise just stick with variations on some of the flower blocks.  Decisions, decisions.

Did any of you out there also join in with the Bloom sewalong?  I'd love to hear (and see the results) if you did.

Until next time reader.  Then we'll head off to Lilac Cottage.  I think...


Monday, 20 March 2017

What a Difference a Year Makes

Readers, hello!  It's been a very long time but since it has just taken me an age even to be able to log into Blogger today and even longer to upload some pictures, I'm not sure I'm surprised!

So much has happened in the past year, to say there is some catching up to do is a ridiculous understatement.  Better to just get on with it.  So, here's a tentative toe in the water this Spring 2017.  I've missed you!

To all who have left comments wondering where I was or what was happening, thank you.  I couldn't even manage to get into my blog to add those so to be sat here typing seems something of a miracle.  Here's hoping the post will actually upload.  (I'm really missing Instagram's smiley and frowny faces as I sit here typing this!)  Any of you who are also Instagram (IG) addicts, will know that I post on there very regularly so if you fancy embracing new technology, over there you can follow what I'm up to every day.  I will try to post more regularly here though (more regularly than annually doesn't set the bar that high, after all.)

Now a few words about those photographs up there.  I've loaded them all in one go and now here's the blurb underneath because I think that's just a manageable way of doing things for me right now.  It also means if you just like pictures and don't want to read my waffle, it's happy days for you!  As you can see, we are all ok and tickety boo.  I'm there dressed in my finest 1940's utility coat, off to a vintage fair in Devizes a few weeks ago.  Mr HenHouse and I are still very much into the whole vintage and 1940's scene though getting the Munchkin to go along is now very difficult.  Any of you who have or have had a fifteen year old teenager will know what I am talking about.  Yes, he really is 15.  He is now more of the Master than the Munchkin, I'm afraid, and just about overtaking me in the height stakes.

The furry friends are all still going strong.  Frank and Oscar continue to delight.  Adopting them was one of the best things we've ever done.  They've fitted in perfectly and provide us with so much joy.  Frank is a real lap cat so you are never lonely when he is around.  Oscar is younger, of course, so a bit more nuts and he certainly keeps us on our toes.  Charlie Boy.  What can I say?  There he is, still going strong, having celebrated his nineteenth birthday a few weeks ago.  Yes, that's probably over 90 in human years.  His favourite place is next to Aggie aga, he can't get enough of the heat.  Yes, I said Aga.  I have still to share my new kitchen with you.

Finally, over the past few years since we moved, there just hasn't been enough time in my life for sewing and crafting.  That's something I'm trying really hard to improve right now.  I have joined a quilting group nearby and I haven't made a full quilt yet but a week or so ago, I went along on a one day workshop held in a local village hall.  We had a visiting tutor, Jan Tillet, who works with the Accuquilt die-cutting machine and free motion stitching.  Now I have to be honest and say I wasn't really looking forward to the day as I know how the Accuquilt works, I've got one already, and I really don't love free motion stitching.  Ugh, no.  Then they changed the venue to a hall even further away and it was a horrible rainy day to top it all.  However, I'm no quitter  so off I set in trusty Delilah Disco down the muddy country lanes and do you know, I had a great day!  The group was smaller than that which meets normally (every other week)  so it was easier to chat and get to know people.  The luxury of having a whole day without the distractions of home to just sew was pretty fabulous!

I chose to use the chicken/cockerel die (we are now pretty obsessed with our hens, of course) and made individual panels.  I decided to create a feature central panel and cut out freehand a linen basket to hold the die-cut eggs.  I very much enjoyed choosing all those pretty fabrics (not necessarily so much free motion stitching round them all!)  I did like the lettering though; I confess that I drew this first using a disappearing pen then stitched over the top.  The perfectionist in me finds free motion stitching quite frustrating, I think it's fair to say, so I really stepped outside of my comfort zone.  Once I got home, I finished off the panels and joined them all with some pretty amazing chicken wire fabric to make...a table runner.  Seems just right for Spring.  The Spring that's coming...soon.  Honestly.

Until next time... xxx

Friday, 4 March 2016

A Guest Room Makeover

Hello Readers.  Thank you for your lovely response to my last post and to those of you who are coming to stay at Lilac Cottage, we can't wait to welcome you!

I thought it was time to play catch up on all that has been going on here at The Old Vicarage.  We've been working hard to put our own HenHouse-style stamp on our new home and we're gradually working our magic.  One of the first rooms we tackled was the guest room.  We then wasted no time into moving into it ourselves so we could decorate the master bedroom!  Now we have a pretty and peaceful room to welcome our guests to Smiling Somerset.

Before we started, it was a sad little room.  Although it was decorated in neutral colours, it was only once the room was empty of the previous owners' belongings that we could see just how dirty and shabby it had become.  Living in the country, everything does seem to get a lot dirtier and dusty more quickly and this room was long overdue for some TLC.

As with the rest of our fine Victorian home, though, this room had good bones.  A fair size, nice and quiet being on the back of the house and with some original features such as the corner cupboard, cast iron fireplace, doors and architraving.

Somebody had added a nasty turquoise stencil to one wall and a "distressed" light fitting.  The carpet was dirty and moth eaten, the interior of the cupboard neglected and unloved!

The door was home to a strange selection of hooks.

The original fireplace had been painted over.  The previous owners of the house have painted absolutely everything in the one shade of cream.  I'm all for neutrals as a good base but it was just too bland.

The room has good sized Victorian sash windows but they needed overhauling and the room was made unnecessarily dark by a couple of trees outside the window, one of them an enormous ugly conifer.

We pondered whether to strip the Victorian pine boards back to their former glory but it took the Mr a very long time to refurbish the floor in the downstairs sitting room which we weren't that keen to repeat and we decided that we quite liked the cosy feel of carpet in the bedrooms.  It was a no to the wooden floorboards then.

A painstaking job was removing the paint from the fireplace.  We didn't feel the cream paint did justice to the casting and in any case, it had been badly applied and was peeling off.  Hats off to Mr HenHouse who undertook the donkey work in this room.

Me?  I'm not much help when it comes to the heavy work because of my joints but of course, there was a whole decorative scheme to plan.   I was in my element, of course.

We settled on a wool carpet from a British company which would act as a warm but neutral background.  I chose a pretty Cabbages and Roses fabric, Constance Rose, for the window treatment and some fresh paints from Farrow & Ball for the walls and woodwork.  Wimborne White is a perennial favourite and my go-to colour for walls.

Of course, we all know that the key to a successful decorating scheme is in the finishing touches.  This is where I like to put my crafty skills to good use and give our home a look that is individual to us.  It meant I had to go out and find fabrics and pretty trims, of course, which was such a hardship!

After a few months of hard work (we're slow but thorough these days), we were really pleased with the results of our labours.  Our pretty faded floral country house-style guest room emerged.  Our style  these days is a little different from our house in London but we feel it suits The Old Vicarage and its surroundings.  It's nice to have a bit of a change too, of course.

We didn't need to source much in the way of furniture for this room, as we already had the bed (though we did get a fabulous new mattress in the sale).  The old chippy painted chest of drawers with the porcelain knobs we rescued cheaply from a tumbledown old unit of a place selling furniture and bric-a-brac near to our home.  I just gave it a good scrub, lined the drawers with scented paper and left it as it is.  The mirror, lamp and radio we already had.  I've re-homed the lovely tapestry-covered stool at the foot of the bed from the cottage (as we have put something sturdier in there) and was pleased to see it fitted in here rather nicely.  The gorgeous old chandelier was a bargain from a little shop in Bridport.  I was not short of eidys of course, when it came to choosing one for the foot of the bed.

The French bedside tables came from the Shepton Antiques Fair, the lamps from the "bric-a-brac" unit (I made the shades using old frames and vintage fabric from my stash) and of course, I was responsible for the soft furnishings.

I loved making the patchwork cushions from old scraps of precious old French and English floral fabrics and I made the little quilt, too.

I whiled away many an evening most enjoyably with a little English Paper Piecing (hand sewing) these hexagons from my stash of pretty vintage fabrics.  I bought the old frame for £10, had new glass fitted and it was perfect for my little piece of stitchyness to go above the bed.

Mr HenHouse having worked his magic, the fireplace was restored to its former glory.  We bought the mirror rather thriftily in Bridport and touched up the frame a little with some gold paint.  The fender was a cheap flea market find made pretty again by the Mr.  He's a handy chap to have around, I can tell you!  The old hat boxes are vintage finds, the handmade velvet cushion houses some of my growing collection of old paste brooches (I am a self-confessed magpie), the pretty antique chair with its handprinted rose design was £15 from the bric-a-brac unit and I made the cushion.  There's a lot of the Mr and of me invested in this here room!

Ove in the far corner, my beautiful Cabbages and Roses curtains are just framing the shot.  I had these made by a local company as I am not keen on curtain making!  I found the gorgeous vintage velvet tiebacks in a local vintage shop, the little wall shelf unit came from the "bric-a-brac" barn for a song and had a little chalk paint treatment before becoming home to some of my little thrifty treasures.  One day in Frome, I spotted the French iron cot and having wanted one for quite some time, home it came.  I made a little mattress for it with ticking fabric (stuffed with old duvets!) and hand-tufted it.  It's the perfect spot for my handmade cushions and quilts and vintage floral eidys, of course.

I made little snowy rabbit by hand and she is quite happy there, in her cosy cot bed.  I LOVE that vintage eidy.  It was a recent flea market find.  How could I leave it behind for a measly £10?  Reader,  you'll be relieved to hear I rescued it immediately!

Let me show you another of my little bargains.  As you know, I am partial to a bit of pink.  One day after visiting a vintage textiles fair in Dorset, we found our way to an antiques centre.  Well, that is what it called itself but it was possibly the worst of its type I had ever been to!  Rescue came in the form of this old chair I found hidden away in one of the aisles.  It has a gorgeous original chippy paint finish and at a measly £7, into the boot it went.  Love!  I made the little cushion from a vintage quilt block.

I've collected all sorts of pretty bits and pieces for this room from the many vintage fairs and flea markets we go to.  I love that all the items are inexpensive but all unique and that they tell a story; both hints of their past life and the story of how and where we acquired them.  For example, the crystal beaded necklace I have had for many years and once belonged to my grandmother.  The dinky beaded bag came from Bridport's street market one Saturday morning.

The real crowning glory of this room?  It's the view.  From the back of The Old Vicarage, it's fair to say we have views to-die-for of the stunning surrounding countryside.  Our village is situated quite high up and beyond us, we can see right out across the Levels.

It wasn't a particularly fine day weatherise today when I took these shots but on any day, it's still mesmerising.  It is lovely to watch the landscape change with the seasons.  Nature is so amazing.  You can see what a difference it has made, having that whopping great ugly conifer taken down.  It has been sawn into logs and is seasoning nicely for burning on the fires next Winter so that's a winning story all round.

In the other direction, there's a view across our paddock and of the HenHouse girls, of course.  They're always busy going about their run and are such fun to watch.  We don't have a cockerel so lie-ins are still on the agenda but the girls do like to make a bit of a racket to let you know when they've laid their egg each morning!

I hope you've enjoyed a little peak around our first renovation project. X

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