Tuesday, 30 September 2008

The Amazon Delivery Cometh

Upon arriving home from my crochet course earlier today, an unremarkable brown cardboard package was awaiting me in the porch. Oh, but what delights it concealed within!

Firstly, let me make it clear that I went shopping on Amazon for things for the Munchkin's impending seventh birthday.  As any of you who have shopped with Amazon before shall know, you only get free delivery if you spend over £15 so I just had to add in the odd thing for myself to make up the order and qualify for free delivery.  Yes?

So, the Munchkin has professed quite an interest in sewing, possibly not surprising given how much sewing I do.  Lacking a young girly in the household with whom to share my enthusiasm, I've been quite happy to do a few little sewing projects with him (notably Mr Owl).  When I was on Marylebone High Street a few weeks ago, I popped into the marvellous Daunts Bookshop.  It has a very good children's section and there I spotted a lovely old fashioned-style book for children about sewing.  

I pondered whether this was a suitable gift for a boy...  Anyway, I managed to find the book on Amazon (for a very reasonable £6 something) and thought the Munchkin would like it and that is the important thing, (hey, just look at Kaffe Fassett)!  In particular, it has a section on blanket stitch which he has been wanting me to teach him.

It is beautifully illustrated inside.  Way back when I was little, I used to love books that had a nameplate in the front (heck, I still would love that!)

Now this, I like.  A section about "Pressing".  Yes, it's definitely time the Munchkin took up ironing!

The back cover is equally charming.

Obviously, I need to hone my own sewing skills so that I can help the small person learn.   As such, I popped this into the virtual basket for me.

I had seen this book in Country Living mag and have long been an admirer of Jan Constantine's work (particularly, the tea cosy, seaside themed patches and the Union Jack cushion). Oh my, but the projects in here are beautiful and there's more than twenty-five of them. Even the tea cosy is included. The projects are split into five sections: Hearts, Country Garden, Seaside, Botanicals and Bugs, and Celebrations.  I am really impressed that she has been prepared to share the secrets of her products for many crafters/business people are not. They do look quite complex and of course, not everyone likes sewing (honestly?) so I guess there shall still be a market for her beautifully produced, ready-made goods. I'm going to try to make some... Here are some of the beautiful pictures from inside:

Also whilst in Daunts, I spotted the new Leon cookbook.  As it is quite a tome, I didn't want to lug it home, (already laden as I was with Cath K goodies), so I added that to Mr Amazon's delivery task.  I am a fan of Leon which is a small chain of "fast food" outlets, but with a difference.  Leon's founding principle is that "food can be both lovely and good for you".    Leon was formed by three friends , variously a chef and management consultants, who wanted good, seasonal food to be available to everybody.  They eventually gave up their day jobs and the first Leon store/cafe opened in Carnaby Street in 2004.  As this is just round the corner from Liberty, I can often be found in there recovering from a visit to the haberdashery department.  Whilst the food is undoubtedly healthy, the Leon gang believe in treating yourself too, so you can indulge in a chocolate mousse or a glass of wine with your meal.

This is really a gorgeous book to look at (I haven't cooked anything from it yet so cannot report on the recipes).    It starts with a look at ingredients and then the recipes can be found in the latter half of the book.  Can't decide whether I like the vegetable or fruit frontpage the most...

There is an emphasis on seasonality and this handy chart:

I spy a Union Jack...

There are some great fold-out sections.  This one is on chickens:

Any cookbook which manages to feature Ladybird's Chicken Licken is fine by me!

There's even a cheese map which lives in its own little pocket!

Here is a choccy hedgehog I might try for the Munchkin's birthday party:

All in all, it looks to be a great addition to my groaning cookery book shelves.

Now I'm really loving this page of stickers at the back. No idea what they're for, of course, but I like them just the same.

This little lot should keep me out of mischief for a while!

Monday, 29 September 2008

Autumn Mists

What a treat the last days of September have turned out to be.  We've had some lovely sunny days, better than most of the Summer, wouldn't you say?  My Cath K sun loungers have stayed forlorn in their packaging in the shed all Summer so we'll just have to hope we get a chance to use them next year as although we've finally had some sun, we had things to do in the garden this weekend which meant lounging was sadly not an option.

I'm usually very much a Summer person; I love the hotter weather and the sunshine.  I think I suffer from SAD the rest of the year.  However, the cooler mornings of Autumn have brought some enjoyable sights and on Sunday morning, whilst the rest of the HenHouse was still tucked up, I ventured into the garden.  It was so misty, it was quite spooky; I expected a headless highwayman to come trotting past!

Somebody else was up for breakfast...

(Look carefully, he wouldn't let me get up close.  Didn't he realise he was about to become famous by being the first bird to be featured on my blog?!  Other than hens, of course.)

It was then I noticed that we appear to have some very active spiders in our garden.  I walked into quite a few cobwebs on my way to put the empties into the recycling bin and then I decided to try to capture the rest, they looked so attractive with the dew clinging to their gossamer outline...

They're obviously a lot more proficient than I am with my crochet!

Who would have thought that later in the day, we'd have been able to dust down the bbq, get the new Cath K oilcloth on the table and enjoy a few rays...

Despite the sunny days, we've had some chilly nights too.  We've had our coal and log deliveries and someone is a very happy chappy indeed...

Hope you all had lovely weekends too...

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

A Bit Woolly

Well, today I set off for my new course starting at 10am, armed with the bag I made yesterday.   With its contents revealed, I think you'll know what I was doing...

Yes, knitting and crochet! This seemed like a natural step for someone who loves crafty things and seems to collect knitted "people", tea cosies, blankets etc. I tried to get on the course last year but had left it too late and it was fully booked by the time I got round to applying. Well, this year there was none of that and I was on the 'phone the day the applications opened! That was a couple of months ago and I've waited very patiently for today to come. I even managed to wait until last Friday before raiding John Lewis for wool and a few essential supplies.

We were a group of about 12 people. Some of my fellow classmates has attended the earlier course and so were not absolute beginners. The consensus amongst the rest was that we'd like to try crochet so that's what we started doing. Perhaps we shall move onto knitting at a later date. It took me a while to master the first chain but I soon had it sorted thanks to our cat sitter who, bizarrely enough, also happened to be taking the course. Funnily enough, she didn't even recognise me without a ginger or black furball attached! She'd done crochet before so she helped me out. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm could not make up for the fact that I found it very difficult to hold the crochet hook and feed the wool through because I have arthritis in my hands. I've practised quite a bit today and although I know what I am meant to be doing, it's very slow progress and I'm not sure I'm going to be able to make it work because I have to keep stopping every thirty seconds and rewind the wool through my fingers. Ah well, I guess some things are not meant to be. My little chain might be the furthest I get...

I've spent the rest of the afternoon fiddling with all things knit and crochet related. I've built up a little stash of vintage pattern books which are so bright and colourful, it cheered me up just looking at them.

There are some fab projects inside. Lots of which seem to centre around tea cosies. Whatever happened to the tea cosy?

The Munchkin was more interested in this...

Surely no self-respecting HenHouse should be without one of these...

Well, if I don't master the art of crochet or knitting, I have been enjoying amassing a little collection of knitted items over the past year or so. These can be picked up really cheaply from car boot sales and charity shops. Given the time and skill put into making these , they really are a bargain.  I hope whoever knitted these toys knows how much I like them and how in awe I am of their crafty skill.

My nan is also a very prolific crocheter.  She is now in her mid 80's and fills her days happily with crochet.  Unfortunately, I cannot get her to produce "granny squares" anymore, like the blanket on top of the stack below.  She made this for me when I first went to uni.  Crikey, make that 15 years ago, I feel ancient!  The one on the bottom of the stack, in lilacs and minty greens, she made for me for my bed in the first flat I bought (with a mini version for my cat!)  I like it that each one reminds me of her and a different time in my life.

She still enjoys making blankets ( as one big square rather than lots of little ones) and these make welcome gifts for friends who have had babies and also for the Muchkin, who seized one and takes it to bed.  They keep my knees warm during these colder Autumn days.

All in all, not quite the day I envisaged so I must surely be due a glass of wine about now.  On a cheerier note, our coal was delivered today so hopefully this evening, we shall enjoy our first fire of the season.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Homestyle Sewing

Recently, having seen this book on a fellow blog, I treated myself to it...

I had bought the "non-Christmas"  book by the same author at the Quilt Festival a few months back.  Now they can be friends!

I attempted to make the slippers from the first book and they were so small (despite apparently being for up to size 41 feet and I am a 39/40) I actually only made one!  Anyone know any one-footed dwarves out there?  Now this made me cross because I had cut into a gorgeous new piece of Pop Garden fabric to make them, too.

The books are by Tone Finnegar, I think she is Norwegian, and are part of the very popular "Tilda" range, cute items made in cute Tilda fabrics/papers/ribbons.  There is a whole group on Flickr devoted to Tilda if you fancy a look.  The projects in the books are sorted into categories by room, ie. hobby room, children's room, kitchen.  These books make fantastic eye candy...


Hobby Room:

Living Room:


Entrance Hall:

Christmas Workshop:

So, yesterday, I decided to have a go at a project out of the Christmas Homestyle book because a lot of the projects are not actually dedicated to Christmas.  First up, this babushka...

Hmm, quite pleased with the babushka, a fun little project that didn't take very long and which can be made from scraps.  If I have a spare ten minutes, I might pretty her up a bit more with some beads on her flower.  The Munchkin thinks she's very cool and wants to make one. It is of course, a completely useless object!  

Next, on a roll, I decided to try the bag from the Christmas Homestyle book.  Aaaarrggghhh!!! Big mistake.  The instructions were dreadful and the pattern pieces (which you have to trace from the back of the book) didn't seem to meet up very well.   The box corners did not meet at all and when I turned the bag through, the lining was far too big and all baggy inside.  So, after much fiddling, I completed it and I have to say, I am really pleased with the way it has turned out but it was not an enjoyable project and will need lots of tinkering with the pattern before I contemplate making it again.

I added a vintage brooch, one of my faves, which my mum found for me.  Clever girl!

Today, I must have been feeling brave because I decided to tackle another project, this time from the original "Sew Pretty Homestyle" book.   Again, the instructions were not brilliant (maybe I'm just thick!), perhaps something gets lost in translation, but it was a pretty easy project once I sussed them out. Tomorrow, I start my new adult education course and so I thought I could use this bag to take my supplies with me. The handles are vintage; I found three old bags with similar wooden handles in a charity shop in Bridport and this is the first project for which I've used them. These were originally paired with hideous fabric but I am loving this new Cath K take on it. Can you guess what I'll be doing?

I'm very excited about it! More of that tomorrow...