Sunday, 27 July 2008

Baby Quilts and High Tea

Saturday was a day of domesticity.  I found myself alone in the house for the first time in ages and eagerly pounced upon my sewing machine.  I've had the material here for a while, waiting to make a little cot quilt for my friends' new baby.  I followed the directions in Joelle Henderson's "Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts" book to make this "quick and easy" quilt.  It lived up to its name and was pleasurable to make.  I'm pleased with the result.

The rest of the day was spent in a whirr of baking for Andy's parents who visited on Sunday.  I made some trusty favourites: scones, chocolate chip shortbread and for the first time, a Dundee cake.  (The recipe was from the WI book of baking and it worked very well.)  It was so hot here over the weekend that the butter started melting in super-quick time. I made some sausage rolls and a quiche and used the left over bits of pastry for some jam tarts.  They always remind me of childhood, Andy says the same thing, and Harry really loves them (and anything else that involves jam)!  I love "high tea", it seems so civilised...

I bought the tablecloth from the RSPCA charity shop in Bridport on our last visit.  A bargain at £2.50 and hopefully, the proceeds shall be helping some deserving animals.

I hope you had an enjoyable weekend too...

Friday, 25 July 2008

Cherry Delight

Well, what a great week this is turning out to be!  We are at last having a spell of hot sunny weather which actually makes it feel as though summer has arrived.  My sister has been staying this week and so we've been out and about.  Yesterday, was a day of pure unadulterated shopping.  Adele is equally as mad as me about crafting, sewing, and fabrics so we had a lovely time in the West End taking in Liberty and Cath Kidston in particular and having an afternoon pit-stop at Patisserie Valerie.  

On Wednesday, we ventured into Kent as it was time to pick our cherries.  In a recent issue of my beloved Country Living magazine, there was a feature on "rent a cherry tree" and as it was soon to be my other half's birthday and he loves cherries, (in particular ones grown in England and indeed Kent as that's where he's from), I decided to rent him a cherry tree!  We have received updates on the tree by email and this week was designated as picking time for our tree.  Unfortunately, Andy was unable to get time off from work to accompany us  but he has been enjoying the fruits of our labours (hee hee).  The farm is located in a lovely unspoilt rural area.  The trees are all netted because our feathered friends really enjoy cherries too.

My motley labour force...

There are various types of tree which fruit at slightly different times.  We were designated a "Colney" tree and I was pleased to see that the fruits are of the luscious deep red variety.  Oh yum!

There were a lot of people there picking their trees and most had made a day out of it, some had brought a picnic.  It was a scene of which Country Living would undoubtedly have been proud...

The trees are quite small but it was fairly heavily laden with fruit and we set to work and soon had lots to show for our efforts:

Once we got home, I weighed the cherries and we have roughly 22lbs! Needless to say, I'll be hitting the cookbooks today to find what I can make with all this glorious bounty!

We finished picking and whilst meandering along on our way, we saw signs for 'The Old Rose Nursery".  As we sisters are both rose devotees, we eagerly set down a narrow and windy country lane whereupon a sight of unbridled beauty unfolded.  

We enjoyed chatting with the owner who was very knowledgeable about roses.  I bought "The Alchemyst" which I had admired at this year's Chelsea Flower Show which I'm going to train against a wall at the cottage.  If you are in the vicinity of Northiam in Kent, it is well worth a visit and the prices are the most reasonable I have seen for roses.  There is a good selection of old varieties, modern hybrid teas and new French varieties and English Roses too.  (Check opening times as I know they are soon shutting for a few weeks for a Summer break.)

As it was time for lunch, we headed off to Tenterden.  Here there is a good array of shops, lots of individual ones not seen on every high street, and I particularly like Mia Home.  It is a feast for the eyes...

I bought the book "Creating Vintage Style" which is waiting for me to enjoy it hopefully sometime over the weekend...

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Cute Country Cottage - or Adventures in the West, Part 2

Well, as promised, today I want to show you where we are lucky enough to spend our time on the weekends and holidays.  It's very difficult to get a good photo of our cottage from the front as there are loads of trees in the way but I've tried (and I've also taken a side shot which shows more of next door than us but it is cute!)

Our cottage is in the middle of a row of three.  Here, you can mainly see the one on the end belonging to our neighbour Judy and her gorgeous Collie dog Molly (whom we borrow for walks when we can) and ours is the second door you can see, just past the white gate.

It is nearly our one year anniversary of owning this little slice of the country.  It all started when I was writing a letter to my sister, Adele, and confessed an ambition to one day own a little holiday cottage in the country (fuelled by a feature in Country Living magazine of the florist Jane Packer's holiday home).  Andy read my half written letter left lying on the kitchen island and declared he thought this a very good idea, how about it, right now?!  So, to cut a long story short, we started a search for the perfect pad which took us about a year to get our hands on (blimey that vendor was annoying!)  

The location came about as a result of a love affair with Dorset, mainly as a result of our obsession with watching re-runs of River Cottage with the hairy Hugh F-W.  I had never visited Dorset before though Andy had (in the days pre-me, so to speak!) and so we made a few trips and really fell in love with West Dorset where River Cottage was first set, in particular we loved our shopping trips to Bridport (see yesterday's post).  Our cottage is actually situated a few miles over the border, in Somerset, in equally glorious surroundings and in the quintessential English country village.  We have a shop and a post office (though that is threatened with closure, see previous post), a pub, a tea room, a church and a primary school.

The cottage was in pretty good condition inside.  We did intend to paint the walls etc when we moved in but we haven't got round to it!  We spent the six months from first viewing the cottage to finally making it our own, sourcing all sorts of goodies for the interior.  We went to many car boot sales, bought bits from Ebay (the kitchen dresser, our Victorian iron bed), made a few trips to the Cath Kidston outlet store at Bicester and did lots of sanding, painting and sewing.

Here are a few pics of our sitting room:

There's Marmalade the Stuffed Cat, settled down nicely on his Cath Kidston covered armchair.  (Whatever I do, I don't seem to be able to upload photos any larger so my apologies for that as it's a bit difficult to see the detail on all those gorgeous cushions and things.)  I made a lot of the cushions and found the embroidered ones either at a car boot sale (50p) or on the Vintage stall in Bridport (two for £5).  It's wonderful for me to find these bargains but really doesn't  do justice to the time input and skill of the original creator.  The Lloyd Loom style chair was a £2.50 car boot bargain, the tapestry covered footstool was from an antiques/bric-a-brac type shop in Cheshire, the standard lamp was from the Bridport street market and I recovered the shade (what a job, never again!)

The dahlias you can see on the windowsill are grown by a chap down the road.  In true country tradition, he has a wonderful display of them on sale at the end of the drive along with an honesty box for you to leave your money.  In a month or so, when dahlias are at their peak, the display will be even more awe-inspiring than this.  

Now, here is the dining room:

We bought the chairs from various flea markets and car boot sales.  The 5 cost us £10 (we're still looking out for the sixth), we sanded them and painted them (inspired by Cath Kidston's "In Print" book) in various shades and I made seat cushions, (every one different), with fabric  remnants from Cath Kidston's outlet store at Bicester.  The oilcloth is also from the Cath K outlet store and the embroidered cloth I treated myself to in an antiques shop in Honiton.  I have a few with crinoline ladies and flowers but this is the first bearing cottages I had seen.  The blue vase is from a charity shop and the flowers are silk; I'm not usually a fan but these are very realistic and perfect as they are always in bloom even when we are only at the cottage for a few days!  I made the curtains with more fabric from the Cath K outlet store and they are on rods which swing in/out from the corner of the window to allow maximum light in.  Andy found the lampbase at a car boot for 50p, he sanded it, I painted it (we're a good team!) and I covered an old shade with Amy Butler's Lotus fabric.  The old Bush valve radio was given to us by my Dad.  It still works and has a wonderful tone to it, evocative of a bygone era.  The "tea for two" is Carltonware green foxglove pattern.  I collected my Carltonware about ten years ago and have quite a collection.  Having moved house to a smaller, more modern-styled place, it was in storage until recently and now has the perfect home.  I don't use it, of course!  Funnily enough, I remember when I was little and used to help my mum at home.  I'd do the salad and always served it in my favourite green, flowery dish which had a basketweave design.  Highly impractical (far too small) but so pretty.  Yes, I later found out, it is Carltonware and I still have it now.

I'll save upstairs for another time and the kitchen and bathroom for when I've added a few finishing touches!

My sister has arrived today for a few days so I am looking forward to some trips out to lovely gardens, cherry picking and the inevitable trip to Liberty.  Oh joy!

On a cheery note, today I passed my driving theory test so that is a huge relief.  All that time learning theory when I could have been sewing!  Just the practical test now.  Aaarrrgghhh!!!  I must keep in mind all those car boot sales, flea markets and antique shops I can visit once I pass.  See you soon...

Monday, 21 July 2008

Adventures in the West - Part 1

Hello bloggers!  What a lovely weekend I just had, hope you did too.  Not only was I in the West Country, not only did I spend Saturday mooching around in Bridport but the sun shone too.  And I found some goodies.  I have oodles of stuff to share about the West country, hence today's post is entitled "Part 1".

Bridport is in the west of the county of Dorset, which is one of the most heavenly places on earth.   It retains a lovely old world feel where hand crafted and vintage goods are still prized, good quality locally produced food is the norm and people actually speak to each other (if you've lived in London you'll understand why this is so mind-blowing!)  I always thoroughly look forward to a day in Bridport because it epitomises everything that is good in a place in this modern age (and I usually make some exciting finds).  Bridport is an intoxicating mix of shops, the odd high street shop like Woolies but lots of lovely individual shops too and a fair few charity shops; markets, of the street, flea, farmers and WI variety; cafes, pubs and hotels (the oldey worldey The George or the old but modernised The Bull, it's good we've stayed there pre-holiday home); and basically lots of culture all set against a beautiful backdrop of hills and general country loveliness!

Our first stop is usually the W.I. market.  In these days of political correctness, they seem to have started referring to it as the "Country Market".  Sorry, I just don't like this name and it will always be a W.I. market to me!  Aswell as all the home-cooked or home-grown goodies and homemade crafts inside, they have a wonderful array of plants and flowers for sale in a little yard at the back:

There is a street market every Wednesday and Saturday. In the main street, the market is a mix of mainly plants, food and goods but the real jewel is the market in South Street behind the clock tower where there is a great line of stalls, mainly selling vintage and second-hand goods. This is one of my favourite stalls and we've bought a few things from here in the past including a gorgeous eiderdown and this week, Andy was very chuffed to find a vintage railway book.

We bought a little bamboo bookcase and a towel rail from here:

From another stall, I bought this cute little sandwich set.  It was begging me to buy it...

On the second Saturday of the month, there is also a farmers' market in the arts centre, yum yum.  Here, we recently bought the best strawberries I've ever tasted, there is a dapper old gent selling divine honey, proper free-range chicken and lots more besides (I'll post about this in future). 

As I mentioned, Bridport has quite a few charity shops too.  
I thought these aprons were very cute (but I did resist):

If you are lucky enough, your pleasurable browsing may take place against a background of rousing sounds courtesy of one of the local brass bands playing in the marvellously named Buckydoo Square (honestly!)  This was just such a lucky day.

I am also rather partial to this shop which carries a good line of Greengate and other vintage and retro goodies:

The home of the owner of this shop was featured in Country Living mag a few months ago.

If you saw a couple with a 6 year-old boy struggling onto the number 40 bus complete with a towel rail, bookcase, folding occasional table (more of that once it's had its makeover), scabious plant, sweet peas, fresh lavender and loads of other bags full of yummy food, that was us!

Next I need to introduce you to our little cottage in the country and you can see Marmalade the Stuffed Cat's new home. Please come back...

Friday, 18 July 2008

Devon and Deco Delights

Before I started blogging just three days ago, there were lots of occasions where I did something interesting and thought that I would love to share it via a blog, in particular when I made a great vintage find and got very over-excited and wanted to share it with like minded people who get equally over-excited about such things (ie. not Andy or Harry!  Sorry boys.)  So, as today is a pretty "normal" day round here, I'm going to share something we did a couple of weeks back...

Every now and then Andy and I get very lucky and manage a weekend away sans enfant (love him though we do).  This was just such a time and we headed off to Devon, largely for the Burgh Island Summer Ball.  If you haven't encountered Burgh Island, I do hope one day you shall be lucky enough to do so because it is the most magical place.  The island is just off the South Devon coast, separated by Bigbury Bay, and can only be accessed by this beast when the tide is in:

The island has very little on it other than a super-duper art deco hotel.  Here is Burgh seen from the Devon mainland:

The hotel was built to look like an ocean liner, cruising being a popular activity in the '30's. The little building down on the island's edge to the right of the photo is The Pilchard Inn which is a great place to hole up and serves a fine cider (or two).  In its heydey, the hotel's guests included Agatha Christie, Noel Coward, Josephine Baker and other well known celebs of the time. Indeed, the suites are all individually named, many after special past guests, all after things evocative of that glamorous era: Cunard, Odeon.  The interior is completely authentic to the period so if you love art deco, it really is the place to go.

It is expected that everyone wears proper evening dress, so dust off those long frocks and your dancing shoes! 

Nearing midnight, everyone was invited outside to witness an amazing firework display.  Andy, clever clogs, took some photos of the hotel lit up by the coloured fireworks:

We love Burgh so much that we rather grandly call our sitting room "The Burgh Room".  It's slightly reminiscent of the era with its art deco cabinet full of Carltonware and although the wallpaper is modern, I think it embraces the spirit of that time.  We do not have a tv in here but on the rather rare occasions we sit in here, we play Benny Goodwin cds and imagine we are at Burgh...

We took the train from Paddington to Totnes, a place I had not been to before, and I was very taken with it indeed!  It has a lovely little street lined with individual shops (very few high street chain stores in sight), a flea-type market, a farmers' market and some wonderful interiors/vintage shops, oh and lots of tea rooms.  What more can you ask for?  My favourite shop was "This'n'That" which had a brilliant window display (oh why didn't I take a photo?  Because I was too eager to get inside!)  We bought lots of bits and bobs including these wonderful pictures.

They are part of a large set which came in its own leather folder and was given to schools as an educational aid.  It came complete with accompanying books, the work of the wonderful Enid Blyton.  I don't remember these from school myself but Andy does (that's the 9 years age difference at work).  I want to put them up in the dining room of our cottage but need to find some suitable frames first.  I also bought a pair of fabulous vintage curtains, here's a snap of the fabric:

Not sure what to do with them (other than admire them).  One day I know I'll find just the right place for them.  They are made from that wonderful barkcloth fabric.  Oh yum!

That evening, we had dinner in the Pullman car of the Devon Belle on the South Devon Railway.  My other half is an avid steam railway fan and it was a very enjoyable evening (despite the drizzle).  Here we are ready to board the train (not a great photo though kindly taken by a fellow diner.  I have a HenHouse bag, of course!)

I really fell in love with Totnes and already love the South Hams so who knows where the next few years may take us once we manage to leave London behind...

I was interrupted in posting this by the arrival of my parcel of quilting goodies so I'm off to fiddle with those.  We're off to the West and a day in Bridport tomorrow, oh joy! More about that next week.  Have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

I've treated myself...

Well, in a moment of rashness this morning, I bought this rug!  

I was so pleased this morning to find that the internet seemed to be working properly again (it's been so slow the last few days which has made posting photos almost impossible) that I eagerly popped into all the blogs I love including that of the designer Anna Maria Horner.  She has just launched a new range of quilting weight fabrics called "Garden Party" and today on her site, has some new items for sale, including some rugs inspired by this range of fabrics.  I just fell in love with this flowery one and so decided to make it our own.  I've no idea where it's going yet but that's hardly a problem, is it?  If you haven't heard of Anna Maria I recommend a visit to her blog.  She is such a talented designer, I am really in awe. She also seems to have an enviously wonderful homelife (anyone who can manage 5 children is amazing in my book!)  I can't wait to get my hands on her new book which comes out in a few months.

I bought some fabrics from the range she launched just prior to Garden Party which is called "Drawing Room".  I've made a few bags from this fabric which our American friends refer to as "home decor" weight which means it is heavier and thicker, really lovely to work with and it gives the bags added stability.  Here are the bags I've made (so far) from her Drawing Room fabrics:

I was really pleased to note that 2 of these appeared in the weekly "eye candy post" in queen of the bag maker Lisa's u-handbag blog.  My sewing room is now seriously overcrowded and I can't justify hanging onto these (not even that delicious birdy one) so if you fancy giving one of these a new home, whizz over to my Etsy shop via that clever little blue button to the right of this page.

Thanks for visiting, I'm off to make apricot jam now...

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Post Offices and Pink Bags

Despite having said yesterday that I might not have time to make bags for a while, I obviously failed to factor into the equation that it would take a few days for my quilting parcel to arrive so with a few hours on my hands this morning, I whipped up this clutch bag:

This design was suggested to me by a customer on Etsy who had seen something similar in my Etsy store which I had designed (but it was a bigger shoulder bag with a strap) and wanted a clutch version which I duly delivered.  I have to give great thanks to that lady, Audrey from Glasgow, as it has proven a popular design.  The fabric was bought from a fellow Etsyer and came all the way from Japan.  Astoundingly, it was posted on a Thursday and arrived chez moi the following Monday!  Seriously, it can take longer to send a parcel within England!  Talking of post, ours arrived at 5pm today which is an all time record.  What is happening with the Post Office these days..? 

A few months ago, we breathed a sigh of relief as the post office in the village where our holiday cottage is was saved from closure.  To our dismay, it has been announced more recently that it shall close after all as Royal Mail decided to keep open a branch in Street (which it had previously marked for closure) which meant, you guessed it, one in so one out.  There has been a tremendous campaign in the village to save the post office; posters in everyone's windows, meetings in the village hall, letters to Royal Mail, appearances in the press and even a trip to Downing Street to hand in a petition.  It shall be such a shame if it closes as it is a lifeline to so many in a village which is otherwise pretty cut off.  There is no bus service at all on weekends and only a sporadic one during the week.  There are a lot of old people in the village and the shop/post office provides more than just a place to buy your stamps.  Fingers crossed that Royal Mail might change their minds (again) and save us.  We shall be going down for the weekend this Friday (hurrah) so we shall see what the latest news is...

Tuesday, 15 July 2008


For quite some time now, I've been lurking and enjoying other people's blogs.  I've been hankering after setting up my very own and after a few days of extreme frustration (I really am not a technical person), here I am!  I still haven't managed to get everything working properly (eg. the Flickr flash badge, grrrrrrr), but I'm getting there in other respects.  Now I'm overwhelmed with things I feel like blogging about and photos I want to share with you.  I consider it would be sensible to start with the basics so here's a photo of me as I think it's nice to put a face to the words...

This was last Thursday at Harry's school summer fair and amazingly, we had a day of sunshine amidst a week of rain.  I am at my usual post, that is on the cake stall, for which I'd made good old fashioned gingerbread men, iced fairy cakes, a chocolate traybake with hundreds and thousands and some giant Smarties cookies.  As you can see, there is a reason why I am no longer slim!  I also sold all the jars of homemade preserves I took and a lady even stopped me in the street the next day and asked to come and buy some more as the marmalade was the best she'd ever tasted!  High praise indeed and she then bought 9 jars so my cupboards at home are looking a bit empty (but my purse a little fuller!)

Today I received this in the post which I bought a couple of days ago while mooching on Ebay:

I'm looking forward to cutting Marmalade out, sewing his sides up and stuffing him, so to speak.  Printed on the edges of the cotton, are the directions "Stuff with cotton wool" which strike me as a bit rubbish (I think things have moved on since Marmalade was born) so I think I'll opt for polyfill.  It will be nice to have him at our weekend place while our own furry friends are left back in London.  I can just picture him now, beside the inglenook, on the eiderdown on the Victorian iron bed, on the Lloyd Loom...

Yesterday, I did a bit of crafting, with a project taken from the lovely book "Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts" by Joelle Henderson of Purl Soho fame.  I've not really done any quilting before and it has a brilliant section at the back telling you how to assemble the quilt sandwich (yum!) and how to bind the edges, amongst other pearls of wisdom.  Anyway, I made Harry this pencil roll.  It took a while to choose and cut out all the coloured strips but I'm so pleased with the result.  His room at our cottage is a shrine to all things cowboy and my sister bought me a stash of cowboy themed fabrics a while ago, one of which I used for the exterior.  I'm going to give it to him to keep him occupied on our train journey down to the cottage on Friday after school, I hope he'll like it.

It gave me a chance to use my new walking foot on my machine which looked so scary I was a bit fearful of using it.  Anyway, it worked a treat and I now have the urge to quilt so I may not be producing too many bags in the next few weeks!    Usefully, my friend from Bar school, Lorna, has just had her baby, two weeks early!  Congratulations, Lorna and Mike, on the birth of baby Felix, a brother to Hugo.  Looking forward to a picture, please.  The book just happens to have a few baby quilt projects so today, I placed a bit of an extravagant order with Cotton Patch who actually stock the items the author suggests you need (you know, the ones mentioned in American craft books which you can't find over here).  So, watch this space for my first quilt project.

Thanks to anyone who has dropped by to read.  I'd love to get corresponding with you all.  It's been an unusually lovely day here in London and I've got the bbq going so I must go and get the sausages (and err, the wine)...

Bye, please call back!