Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Book Love

Well I hope that wherever you are today, you are experiencing better weather than we are here in the capital. I'm togged out in jeans and a jumper for the first time in ages, socks too, there's a definite nip in the air to accompany the torrential rain and in my den, I have every available light on, and I have many. I think this weather is contributing to my rather sluggish nature at the moment. There's a lot of reading going on in the den and very gentle low-key crafty projects.

In the back of my mind is the fact that I have a very busy couple of months ahead. There's the Munchkin's eighth birthday later on next month, I'm going to be chalking up another year myself shortly after, there's the half term holiday in October looming and the delights of the Country Living Fair and most importantly, the Vintage and Handmade Fair on November 14. So, I'm making a few bits and pieces now so that I don't feel quite so manic come November. I've indulged in a few beautiful pieces of vintage fabrics from Donna recently. These generally spend quite a bit of time on a special shelf in my den, being taken out and stroked and oohed and aahed over every now and then. Eventually, I get the urge to see them made up into something, they always look even better. Probably my favourite thing when it comes to sewing is combining different fabrics, trimmings and the like. When it comes to my vintage fabrics, I feel quite mean, though, because of course, they are predictably more costly to buy and so I tend to use them in smaller amounts. Perfect then to use them for deliciously fragrant little lavender bags where I can combine patterns to my heart's content! This morning, I've spent an hour or so blind-stitching all the openings closed which I actually found quite soothing!

The yellow stripey and rosebud fabric is from Donna, combined with some vintage lace and a 1930's reproduction print.

In these ones, the middle fabric came from Donna, it's one of my favourites. It has a wonderful nubby texture and yes, yet more rosebuds. I've combined that one with one of my favourite retro style fabrics and a simple ditsy floral cotton.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, I probably don't need to tell you that my favourite colours are pinks and blues/greens/turquoise. I can't narrow it down any further than that! A lot of my fabrics conform to this colour palette and so therefore, do the things I make. Not always though. I stood back and looked at the little sachets I'd made and thought maybe I should shake the colour palette up a bit. I chose two lovely red/white/black vintage fabrics from Donna with errm, rosebuds on, and combined them with a modern spot and some retro print fabrics. And you know, as I was sewing the strips together, I wasn't at all convinced it would work but completed, I really do like them.

So, there they are. I must resist the temptation to make anymore! I'm planning on selling them at the Fair but if anyone fancies snapping some up in the meantime (then I could make some more!) or perhaps you're unable to make it to the Fair, please feel free to get in touch. You can find my details in my blogshop.

Now, isn't this post entitled "Book Love", I hear you cry? Onto the books then.

Did you spot the book on the top, entitled "Laura Ashley". I've been waiting for this book to come out for a while. It was finally published earlier on this month and once it arrived the other day, I've been devouring it. The story of the success of the Laura Ashley business is wonderful and so inspiring. Laura and her husband, Bernard, started the business screen printing tea towels on the kitchen table of their Pimlico flat early in the 1950's. They then went from strength to strength to the business we know and love today. I'm still reading it (one of the few "coffee table" books I'm actually taking the time to read properly).

There's a lot of text about Laura's early days and some lovely family photos; here is one of her wedding day.

The book then tracks the progress of the business with many illustrations of the fashions through the years.

Pages of lovely fabric archives.

Selected pages from past catalogues.

For some reason, when I had my initial flick through, I ended up reading the last few pages and found out that Laura died on her 60th birthday in 1985 in what was a completely tragic accident. She was staying at her daughter's house and got up at 4.30am to go to the bathroom. She didn't put the light on for fear of waking everyone which had the disastrous consequence that she mistook the stairwell for the bathroom and fell down the stairs to her death. Such a sad and shocking tale, what a waste.

It is a wonderful book, I am thoroughly enjoying it and recommend it highly if you are interested in the Ashley tale.

Onto more wonderous pages in the form of the book I bought the other week from Girls' Own Store whilst out and about in Bridport, "Perfect English Cottage". I happened to spot it in there and whilst I usually wait and buy books from Amazon to get some discount, I wanted to snap it up there and then! The owner of Girls' Own Store has her own Dorset cottage featured in the book.

From the very first page, it is mouth wateringly, tremblingly, excitingly gorgeous!

The first section (of five) is entitled "Romance" and the cottages in this section (including Sara's from Girls' Own Store) are just so gorgeous, right up my proverbial street!

Each "part" ends with a recap and suggestions on how to achieve that style.

There are further chapters on "Character", "Holiday", "Simplicity" and "Elegance" all featuring very different and beautiful homes. Some are not necessarily to my taste but I can appreciate them all the same. My sister and I agree (she wanted a copy straightaway too!) that the first section is our favourite and the book is worth it for that alone.

Onto an even better book, though. When my parents came to visit us at the cottage, they brought me a surprise gift from my sister, the scrap booking queen! When I say scrap booking, I do not mean it in the sense of buying co-ordinating papers, punching out shapes and all that sort of thing. I mean cutting out and collecting all sorts of lovely images and compiling them all together. You may recall I wrote a post a while back now about Adele's home and her scrap booking fetish! Well, this time, I was the recipient. Lucky, lucky me!!!

Want to see inside? Such a collection of deliciousness, all the things I love...

There's a mixture of images taken from mags, family photographs (you might recognise a few faces!), pictures pinched from the blog, I think, and cards from favourite shops and places.

This page has a feature on Cath K from what must be an old mag. The fabrics featured are ones long since retired, ones after which I lust!

It is definitely my favourite bedtime reading.

Recently, I have been a very lucky girl. First I received the scrapbook, then various lovely cards and gifts from blogging friends. I feel very privileged when I receive these and touched that people go to such effort - just for me!

Here are some of the lovely cards I've received over the last week.

One of my wonderful blogging friends floored me with a fabulous package of goodies; the beautiful retro card and several books she thought I would like. In particular, I just love this one which B sent to me after my enquiry about feedsack fabrics after I visited the Quilt Festival. It is seriously gorgeous to look at whilst having some great practical advice and lovely projects, too.

Sorry the images are not great but awful weather means awful light for photography too! Now I must dash as a certain small person is awaiting mum's taxi!


  1. wow those books look fab i have book envy! and really like the mix of fabrics you have used :-)
    Lesley x

  2. what a packed post! i think i need to go back and savour it again :)

  3. Those fabrics are really lovely. The story of Laura Ashley is really sad, I read it a few years ago when it was published inone of the newspapers just after the accident. I have a few vintage Laura Ashley dresses, and quite a few modern ones! That is my idea scrapbooking, I have just started on and will be bloging about it soon....... Next week I'm Knitting & Needlecraft fair at Westpoint Exeter, will you be able to make it?

  4. Beautiful books Hen, thats so sad about Laura Ashley!I never knew she died like that.
    I'm enjoying the latest Tilda book at the moment and deciding what to make!
    Rachel x

  5. Poor Laura! I knew she died young but I did not realise that the cicumstances were quite so tragic and unecessary.
    Love the pictures of the books.
    The weather here is not raining but blooming miserable and windy. I have just purchased two (for £7) tops from Tesco with 3/4 sleeves and a boat neck that should be perfect to see me through Autumn with some nice chunky knits! x

  6. Hen, you have a knack of taking the old and making it modern. Would you care to style my wardrobe for me? Talking of which I still have my Laura Ashley dresses from the 1980's and cotton lace shawls!!! The books look like really good reads and your sister is really thoughtful to put the scrapbook together for you.

  7. Hi Hen,

    Love the lavender bags - and great books!

    I can sympathise about the weather... It's been chucking it down all day in Essex too... like someone turned the tap on outside and forgot about it...

    Rose XXX

  8. What wonderful books indeed - thanks for drawing them to our attention. If you want to know how I manage Vide Greniers on a bike, I do explain on my post today, Hen!

  9. What lovely books...there's nothing like curling up on a cosy chair with a good book..have a good week

  10. Really enjoyed this post Hen......the LA book appeals to me and is already my top buy for next week....it is tragic what happened....so sad!

    the scrapbook is wonderful...I love the CK page...and I spy some of the vintage fabric I have here....I can hardly bring myself to use it.....its too lovely!


  11. OMG OMG OMG!

    How much lovliness! I worked for LA back then and have a back catalogue of back catalogues but I loved seeing your book as memories of really happy times came flooding back! In the Regent Street shop tourists would ask us if those were "the" stairs, can you believe it!

    I love the polka rosebud combo, delicious as is the Counrty Cottage book, must get a copy SOON!

    Feedsacks and quilting fab too, phew I need a lie down x

    Love Sarah x

    (p.s the clue is Mornington Memories!)

  12. You are so lucky having a sister who appreciates the same things as you. My family all think I'm mad (apart from my gran who has her name down to stay at the nearest opportunity) for liking vintage and flowery things.

    I love that English country cottage book. Might have to order that myself.

    Sian x

  13. I really enjoyed this post and also went back to read the one about your sister. What a lovely relationship you have. Her scrapbooks are wonderful.

  14. Your sister's scrap book for you is just delightful. What a labour of love!

  15. ..if this can cheer you up..the weather is rainy and cold also in Italy! What a clever and lovely sister you have! Her book looks amazing!

  16. Your scrap book is beautiful, what a wonderful gift. The cottage book looks great I am going to have to look out for it on Amazon. Your little lavender bags are really sweet, I will certainly be looking out for them at the V&H fair. I was thinking of going to the country Living Christmas fair this year as I have never been before, would you recommend it ?
    Ann x

  17. Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to let go of some of my fabrics? Seeing the beautiful things you have made with my fabrics makes me want to buy them all back, please have some left by the time I see you at the fair!!! I once bought a whole load of things from the Country Living Fair that were made by a friend of mine who stitched lovely things for 'Made in Hastings'. I recognised my fabric and had to have them, silly huh?!

    I saw that Perfect English Cottage book the other week in Rosemoor Gardens and after looking at it briefly tried to convince myself that I didn't need it, seeing it again now I realise that I do, it is delicious!

    Love the scrapbook, lucky girl :-)

    It has been very warm and sunny here in Devon today, sorry, mind you we usually get the rain whilst you all bask in the sunshine so I think we deserve it x

  18. And i thought I was ok at scrap books! Goodness what a wonderful treasure to pour over. I recognise a few of the pictures in mine,. I tend to follow the seasons but a theme is a brilliant idea.

    Love the look of teh cottage book, i think that'll be going onto the Christmas wish list. Thanks for the sharing it!

    Hope you've dried out a bit!

  19. Great post, where to begin!!
    Love the lavender bags, the fabrics go so well together.
    I didn't know about Laura Ashley, what a sad story, I have some LA dresses that someone gave me for my daughter, she loves them.
    Beautiful books, just tried to reserve the Perfect English Cottage at the library,unfortunately they don't have it, but do have Perfect English, so I'll
    browse that instead, have you read that one?
    The scrapbook is wonderful, what a lovely gift from your sister.
    Like KC's Court, I'll be at Westpoint next week, hopefully buying lots!!!!!
    Linda O xx

  20. oh I love your scrapbook - thats my kind of scrapbooking - like I used to do with my mum :)
    What a fabulous gift x

  21. Dear Hen

    After a long day...once my own wee one is in bed asleep...the dishwasher is on and a cup of tea sits next to me...it's lovely to stop by and hear about your day...
    Thank you for sharing...

  22. Keep every one of those lamps on, when the weather is dark and rainy.

    You've brought light to your readers in so many ways.

    Any memories of how Laura Ashley started out is a reminder to all of following one's dream. Her very untimely death is a reminder to all that we would do well to enjoy each day we have.

    Your sister's scrapbooking is fantastic. You are a lovely sister to showcase her talent.

    Oops, I just missed commenting on those lavender bags, and what it is to venture outside one's usual color scheme. Bravo to you for taking a step past your usual hues. Great to see the contrast ... and I know you will soon be back to your favorites. I love those colors too, think of the colors of old Minton china..

    Gosh, what a long comment. Must be because I do want to let you know that your posts are fabulous.


  23. Thanks for sharing those books, they may find their way onto my Christmas list.
    Your scrapbook is gorgeous, like a personalised magazine.
    Lisa x

  24. Hi Hen. Sorry to hear you have the yukky weather we seem to have had for most of the summer. Gorgeous things in today's post though and very sad about Laura Ashley. Didn't realise that's what had happened. x

  25. I have loved reading today's blog. Books are just about my favourite thing. Love the Laura Ashley book and her death is really sad... what a waste.

    The scrap book your sister made is just the most beautiful thing. It's given me inspiration to make a mini version for both my sisters....


  26. Fab post as always Hen. When are you going to adopt me? I really need to come and live in a household with lots of lovely craft books, and embroidered cloths, and pretty crockery, and lots of fabrics, and ....

  27. What a great selection of books, i'm not envious at all 'hehe'
    I especially love the look of the 'Perfect English Cottage', time to scroll back up and zoom in on piccies me thinks xxx

  28. Hi Hen

    Full of lovely eye candy again! They are lovely books, I have them both. As you say, such a waste Laura Ashley dying like that. Unfortunately, I felt that Laura Ashley shops/designs went downhill after that. I really liked the Laura Ashley of the 80's and early 90's.

    Scrap books are a great way to past the time, something which I have done on and off over the years. It's prompted me to have a rummage in the loft to find some of my old ones. It is a beautiful gift for you to have received.

    Really pretty lavender pillows!

    Good luck with all the work ahead of you.
    Take care
    Isabelle x

  29. Hi I think I am getting the hang of blogging, I cant wait to have my own but meanwhile I will enjoy reading yours !Thanks for your help.
    Nice to see so may people out there enjoying the same sorts of things.
    I love making things too and sell on ebay and the odd school fair.I also love buying vintage things but I seem to end up selling them instead of making a lovely home like yours - oh well
    Thanks for letting us share it all
    Best wishes

  30. Oh I love the Laura Ashley book and the others look fantastic too.

    Lucky you with the sugar sacks book too...what a great blog friend

  31. oh no,,not more book reviews! I'm trying so hard not to buy anymore books at the mo, no money & no space!
    Lavender bags look great, I've been drying & bagging up lavender all day... smelly hands now!
    It's been really sunny here, no rain for us! :)

  32. Perfect English Cottage has now just joined my Amazon wish list. Looks totally fab. I love you Sisters scrap books. I make scrap books of all my magazine cuttings but I tend to space the images out on each page. Now I think I want to add to them and fill every gap as your Sister has done. It's lovely having a creative Sister isn't it? Mine is a textile designer who makes me very lovely Birthday presents. Fiona

  33. I collect those kind of pictures but they don't make it in to a book like - now that is my idea of scrap booking - I don't understand the other sort.
    Will definately look out for those books. I was in LA only the other week full of deep rich berry reds autumn and winter colours that are my favorite.
    Thank you for sharing those books.

  34. Oh my, books will be the downfall of my checkbook! I love, love, love books--especially the sort similar to your Laura Ashley coffee table book and the one about lovely cottage-inspired decorating.

  35. What lovely books, just right for such a dreadfully wet day. I am going to have a wonder over to Waterstones to find the Laura Ashley book.

  36. What a thoughtful pressie from your talented sister (it must run in the family huh)!

    The books are great, I'm on a 'book freeze' at the moment, I've been buying so many recently. So having a fix through your blog is great!

    Love your fabric choices and combinations.

    I've just got back from a very hot couple of weeks in sunny Cyrpus, now the London weather is very autumnal. And strangely I'm enjoying the change... that sure won't last thought.


  37. SOME GREAT books there hun! Sad to know that about Laura Ashley too..what a tragic accident :~(
    I DO LOVE those scrapbooks though hunny...what a great source of inspiration at your fingertips!!
    Very Creative and a lovely gift x
    Annie x

  38. Beautiful post, beautiful things! Poor Laura Ashley, I still love a lot of the prints. Suzie. x

  39. Thanks for the recommendations Hen...think I NEED to go and order 'Perfect English Cottage' right now...



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