Thursday, 30 June 2011

Saddle Up!

Yee haw! Today we've gone all Wild West inspired here in the HenHouse. If you've been reading the blog for a while, you'll know that we've long had a love of all things cowboy. It started with making over the Munchkin's room at the cottage nearly four years ago now. I've just amused myself by re-reading a post about it I wrote when I first started blogging. How one's blogging style changes! (You can read it here if you fancy.)

We had fabulous fun whilst decorating the Munchy's room. We collected all sorts of fantastic 1950's cowboy ephemera: annuals, wooden jigsaws, dressing up outfits, horse shoes and cow bells, it was great and all done very cheaply via boot sales and eBay. Of course, I also ran up some nice soft furnishings for his room, using Cath K's cowboy duvet set as a starting point but making curtains, bunting, cushions and so on with lots of western style fabrics. I've kept on collecting as it's a popular theme with the Munchkin (and me!) and recently, I felt my collection had reached a pretty fine point.

As you will know, just about all the quilts I make are rather feminine and mainly floral in style. I've made a couple of quilts for the Munchkin and decided for a change, maybe I'd try my hand at making a quilt specially for another little chap out there (though I guess I must not rule out tomboys!)

So "Saddle Up" has come into being and it's super cute and I think, pretty unique, not the sort of thing you'll pick up on the high street.

It's a little cloudy here so the colours in the pics are a little muted. I can just see a special little one in bed, enthralled with all the great '50s style patterns on the fabrics. I like to imagine where my quilts will end up when I'm making them.

People sometimes ask how I sell my quilts and the things I make but the reality is that you can only need so many soft furnishings in your own home and nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing something I've made going off to be loved in a new home. Sometimes, people even write and thank me for the things they've re-homed and this always blows me away that people are so kind to thank me for something they've bought. I know; I am very lucky indeed to be able to spend my time doing this sort of thing.

Crikey, before I get all emotional, Doggie says wuff , in case you are interested, "Saddle Up" is waiting a new owner in the blogshop here!

Monday, 27 June 2011

A Weekend in the Garden

My word, I've already been out for my "morning constitutional" round the garden in my nightie and it is roasting out there! All this heat has been fabulous for ripening the delicious raspberries.

Before the heatwave descended late on Saturday, I spent the morning jamming our homegrown raspberries which have produced a jam sooooo delicious, it's going to be even better enjoyed in the depths of Winter.

We've had about 10 lbs of raspberries so far this year, all from ten canes which cost £9.99 a few years ago. They take very little tending and so are ideal for our rather "hands off" approach to gardening!

Chores done, we all took time to do our own thing but the lure of the beautiful weather meant it had to be done outdoors. I set myself up under the dappled shade of the old apple tree.

A spot of gentle crafting was called for...

As were elevenses, a spot of Victoria sponge made with that delicious raspberry jam!

On Friday, I treated myself to this book. I have always loved Jane's book, The Gentle Art of Domesticity, she produced The Gentle Art of Quilt Making last year and now it's this one.

If you are thinking, hang on, Hen can't knit, well you'd be right! However, I can crochet and a few crochet patterns are included at the back. No matter though, because maybe I'll learn to knit too but mainly, I just love Jane's books for their lovely photos and in particular, her wonderful style of writing. A bit like Nigella's cookery books which offer great recipes as well as great writing, I like to just read Jane's words as she writes really well. Who else will give you ideas for films to watch while making flowers or wine to drink whilst knitting socks?

There is a vintage bias to some of the patterns and to the styling throughout the book.

How can you not want to knit when you see these cushions?

The Munchkin meanwhile, is taking time to recline, seemingly even reading his beloved Railway Modeller mag is too taxing!

It's not often you find Mr HenHouse without railway reading matter in his hands.

A furry friend decides to wedge himself in alongside me on my little bench; hmm, just what is needed on a scorching hot day, a furry purry hot water bottle!

After a few lazy hours, my little woolly flowers (pattern in Jane's book) have become a '40s inspired brooch.

I've also managed to complete another crafty project in the form of this Country Calico quilt.

I've made a few of these before, in fact it is the same as the quilt on our bed (just minus tons of kitty fur) and it is really lovely, a mix of vintage and modern fabrics in mainly blue and red for classic old fashioned country style.

Just the thing layered with a top sheet on these warm Summer nights (perfect atop your duvet in Winter, too). Find it waiting for a new home in my blogshop here.

As the heat cools a little in the late afternoon, the stumps come out and the boys indulge in a spot of cricket practise.

It's all too much for Vorey who has flopped in the shade on the patio.

Finally, it's time to use our new BBQ for the first time, having had it for several months now and not having good enough weather to use it!

Even better possibly, is when we get to pudding or rather its accompaniment, our homemade cherry brandy made from the cherries we pick from our own cherry tree each year.

Meanwhile, Charlie Boy is not daft. All that fur means he just has to keep out of the sun and he spends the day watching the goings on in the back garden from his favourite spot, on his cushion in the window of my Den, Bagpuss style!

Hope you had a lovely weekend too.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Quality Quilting

This time last week, my sister and I headed off by rail to Esher in Surrey and found ourselves at the Sandown Quilt Show. It's one I'd not been to before and whilst on a much smaller scale than the beloved International Festival of Quilts, it's easy for me to get to and there's plenty to wander round in a day.

This event is an opportunity to shop, as there are lots of fabric and quilting supply shops, but also to look and admire a lot of quilts for it is also a quilt competition. Below, behold the pretty darned spectacular winner of best in show.

The mind boggles at the amount of work in this. The hand quilting is beautiful and the piecing is very accurate. Whether or not each and every quilt is necessarily to your own personal taste, you cannot help but admire the skill and dedication that has gone into these works of art.

This one was very cute and contained some flannel fabrics so appeared very tactile (though I didn't touch, no no no!)

The quilting on this one was beautiful and the flowers had been hand painted.

I loved this traditional Grandmother's Flower Garden design but sister and I agreed that we were not a fan of the modern swirly quilting. Each to their own, of course.

I do admire machine quilting, it's a definite skill, and I love it on whole cloth quilts such as this one below where I feel it's appropriate for the quilting to take centre stage. I suppose I am a fabricaholic so I don't personally like it when the quilting overpowers the fabric and piecing. Sister and I noted that there is a definite bias towards swirly machine quilting at the moment.

Some quilts went for the pictorial look which I do rather like for its whimsical quality.

Sorry this is a rubbish photo but there was a whole row of these cute appliqued quilts and I fell in love with the miniature quilt you can see in each one.

More very skilled applique featured in this quilt. This didn't win anything which many of us observers commented seemed a shame. It must be devastating to put in all that hard work and not see it rewarded. It's always interesting at competitions to see who the judges choose to win and whether or not you agree!

Shopping? Who said shopping? There was a very large area full of quilty loveliness to buy but I didn't take many photos because it was firstly very busy, and secondly, I was too carried away shopping myself! Sister and I had made a pledge that we were not in need of any more fabric. Well you can imagine the outcome of that, can't you?!

We were pleased to find a stall with some vintage fabrics for us and the stall holders were delightful and knew of my blog which always seems funny!

There is fabric of every variety on offer and you can find the odd bargain if you look hard enough which is necessary now cotton prices have gone through the roof. I've noted all the fabric and batting I buy has gone up in recent months between 15% and 25%. Ouch!

We were amazed by the lovely cross stitch cards on this stall, oh if only I had the patience or the time!

This fair is well worth a visit if you live nearby and advance tickets are only £6 each which I think is very good value. We had a lovely time and ended up running for our train home, as usual, trailing bags of batting in our wake!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Cath Love

Well hello again! I seem to have a lot to blog about at the moment, though sadly little time, so this may be a bit "whizzy"! Thank you very much, says Mr HenHouse, for your very kind birthday wishes. Last night, we boarded a steam train and went on a trip round the Surrey Hills. Not the most scenic of the Steam Dreams' trips we've been on but it was a great way to make the most of the longest day, Mr HH's birthday and as it was relatively short for one of their trips, we took the Munchkin for the first time. I spent the day baking scones and getting a picnic together and it was a really lovely evening, even the sun shone.

Backtracking to the weekend, a few of you spotted my brooch, currently my most beloved new (old) possession, so I thought I would give it a photo spot all of its own. I bought this from the lovely Donna , purveyor of the divinest of goodies, whilst we were at Cowslip. I've since sewn a brooch pin onto a piece of felt and attached that to the back to enable me to wear it. I love it so verrry much but it is delicate so I may have to effect a few sturdy repairs before it has its next outing.

On another note, a few folks also asked me how to find out about '40s events. We generally see those taking place on the railways in magazines like Steam World or Heritage Railway. Another excellent source (if the steam mags don't happen to be part of your regular reading material!) is Best of British magazine which generally has a full listing of events, not just at the railways. Finally, there are also websites about this sort of thing and we find this one pretty useful. What are you waiting for!

Now where were we? Ah yes, back to the weekend, one of the great things about Tunbridge Wells is that it has a branch of Cath Kidston and a very fine one it is, too. The ladies working there were lovely and very complimentary about my vintage outfit when I quickly popped in on the way to the railway on Sunday.

On Monday, I had a few hours shopping time so I headed back for a proper look round (the ladies recognised me this time and treated me like an old friend!) and I also made it upstairs. Oooh my giddy aunt, but what beautiful displays they have there.

Well, blow me if I couldn't just have hunkered down and got cosy in that little nook...

However, I think I'd rather put on my face whilst sitting at this divinely feminine dressing table. I was obsessed with these "kidney shaped" tables when I was a girl and wanted one desperately! Maybe it's never too late?

This quilt was seriously swoon-worthy, a vintage piece made from feedsacks. However, despite the label telling me it was "personally selected by Cath" I was still rather blown away by the £420 price tag. Such quilts are relatively common in America and the prices an awful lot cheaper (even on good old eBay) so it's always a tad irksome when you see them offered for crazy money over here. Nice to see it though (for which, many thanks!)

Such a cute little chest and I do love those collaged cottage pictures.

Eeek, that wallpaper, is it not seriously beautiful (shame it's £150 per roll) and the pink-painted mirror, well...

Wouldn't mind this little lot in my sitting room...

Patchwork heaven.

I've saved the best for last. I love this little scene, it looks so homely and cosy, perfect to settle down for a spot of crafty business, and it's made me think again about our sitting room where the chairs are all pushed well back from the fireplace and we are generally glued to the telly!

Hope you enjoyed the eye candy and don't forget, the Cath K sale starts tomorrow!