Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Under Construction

Well, I'm not sure whether I'm coming or going this week but one thing's for sure, it's a happy feeling all the same. My sister has been with me for the week so there has been much crafty nattering and moochy outings and now this week, it's foot to the pedal at the sewing machine. How can I not be happy when I am surrounded by such lovely vintage and handmade goodness?

Yes, if it has escaped your attention, as it surely shouldn't have, this Saturday is the next super, spiffing and splendid Vintage and Handmade Fair in Chipping Sodbury. Here, yours truly shall have a stall peddling her wares, along with my accomplices, Mr HenHouse and Master Munchkin, not forgetting many other very talented makers and vintage vendors (at least their wares are vintage, even if they are not).

Today I have attacked my vintage stash and embroidered cloths and have been merrily patchworking away on some cushion covers. This one has a bluey purpley theme...

While this one, still being sewn together, has a pretty sugary pastel theme, all my fave colours.

There have been more crazy hearts, filled with delicious Provencal lavender.

To prove that I really have been patchworking like mad, you can see I needed to buy a new ruler and handle as the others broke, and whilst we were in Lewes last week, I thought I should treat myself to a new pink cutting mat. Well, it would have been rude not to.

Also in Lewes, sister/partner-in-crime and I spotted this extremely cute number.

Yes, we lugged it all the way round Lewes and all the way back on the train and I've loved giving it a pretty makeover. Just right for a special little lady to find under the tree on Christmas morning?

The vintage crib has received a new influx of bunny teds who are jostling for space with the owls...

There are also a few more brooches, a new design using vintage quilt patches teamed with my fave little felty flowers and a touch of hand embroidery.

Oh, if only my "to do" list was looking a little shorter and if only when I crossed one thing off, I didn't think of something else to add? Know the feeling?

Much better to be like Vorey and take advantage of the piece of foam abandoned under the ironing board?

What? Sleep in that nice basket with a cushion in it and a crocheted blanket? When I can have this chopped-into-curled-up piece of foam?

It's all far too much for Charlie Boy who is having to block out the daylight with his furry paw to take a cat nap!

As you can see from the calendar, I'm stuck back on the twelth! If only.

I hope to be back before the end of the week to show you the other goodies I am working on and (fingers crossed) hope to have finished. Hope you are having a good week. Now where did I put that paint brush?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Sometimes It Goes Wrong

I was just sitting sorting through photos on the computer and it struck me that I'd never shared these with you, taken way back in the Summer. I remember this well because I sat outside in the sun doing much of the sewing in my spare time. I also remember it well as... the project which went wrong. Gasp!

Overflowing with enthusiasm after my time with the fabulous Julie Arkell at Cowslip Workshops, and being a little brooched-out back then, I hankered after making a fabric necklace. We weren't shown how to make them on the course though you will see Julie's necklace in the photos if you look with eagle eyes at this blog post, as Julie brought many of her beautiful handmade items to share with us.

Off I went, maybe it was all the sun (or all the wine?), merrily chopping out circles of Liberty Tana Lawn, as I decided this would be a good fabric to make the "balls" in (beads really?), being relatively light weight.

Ooooh, how I loved watching my little pile of balls grow. So very tactile, such delightful spriggy fabrics. (Note the Mollie Makes inspired photo!)

Having beavered away making rather a lot of the little balls, when I had finally sewn them together, I gaily flung my necklace round my neck and skipped indoors to the mirror to see how it looked. Giddy and exciting times, dear reader.

Oh horror of horrors! Had I not created the largest ever fabric necklace in history? It seems my sense of scale had deserted me. What size did you cut those delicious circles of Tana Lawn, Hen?

As such, I've rather preferred looking at my photos of piles or handfuls of Liberty fabric balls and when I just decided to write this post, I knew you would probably want to see a shot of the finished article. Well, goodness me if I had no idea where the necklace of disaster was, sadly discarded in disgust. However, a little search in the Den found it hanging on the back of the door.

(Look how dreadful the light is for photos. Oh I hate this time of year. Sulk.)

Admire my Ma Larkin-esque housecoat, why don't you, instead of that disgraceful necklace.

And while we're on the subject of housecoats and Mollie Makes-esque photos... I may as well add this one into the mix. Decidedly unflattering though this photo is, it still contains an undeniably splendid pink glass hen for my collection and another marvellous housecoat.

Maybe when the Munchkin is older and taller, he will not take such awful photos of me, shot from below, with me looking rather portly. Or is that when I stop eating cake?

Want to share your crafty disaster? Go on, it'll make me feel better (sob).

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Crafty Old Bag

I've been waking up pretty early at the moment which is great for getting on and sewing with gusto, not so great come mid-afternoon when I'd like to crawl into my cosy pit and have forty winks!

I decided to hit my Cath K stash which is fairly sizeable, and use some of the new fabrics I'd acquired. The fabrics are pretty full-on, especially when you patchwork a couple together, so I kept the design to a simple classic, the tote bag.

I love this one. The grey fabric has been used for the bags Cath sells in her stores (the bags made by little Chinamen), but hasn't been available as yardage so I was very hesitant cutting into it and only had enough for this one bag. The end result is worth it though, I think, paired with another favourite print, Button Rose, oh so cute.

I loved the Provence Rose design as soon as it was released so when Cath started producing it in different colourways, I was a happy bunny! This one in a soft red shade is particularly striking.

As you probably spotted, I added a handmade felt anemone brooch to each bag to oomph the vintage 1940's style. They each have a swivel metal brooch pin sewn to the reverse so can be removed and swapped to another bag or even a cardi or coat.

Each also has a pretty crochet trim. I try to make my bags more appealing than those you can buy straight off the shelves along with the rest of the world, and selecting the trims and brooches is also one of the best bits of the making process.

They're lined with Rosali cotton and each has a dinky pocket to keep your travel card, keys or similar in easy reach.

They are both one-offs, currently available in my Etsy shop.

Now how about that forty winks?! Yawn. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Brooching the Subject

Time flies, dear reader! Before we know it, it's going to be the "big day". I think I can safely mention the 25 December now? Indeed, we were presented with a whole loads of gifts at the weekend and it rather took me aback that someone could be that organised!

Meanwhile, I am not doing well on the Christmas shopping front, unless you count buying early gifts for myself? Oh yes, I'm pretty good at that.

This morning, I was super excited to open the front door of the HenHouse and find a couple of boxes waiting for me in the porch, left at some ungodly hour by our friendly postie. One was full of lavender so that I may get stuffing some crazy hearts, the other was a rather delightful vintage goody for me that I'd just been unable to resist.

Fortuitously, it coincided with my having finished beavering away on a whole range of brooches to replenish my little shop. A perfect opportunity for a faffy photo session presented itself, along with a touch of sunshine, oh so welcome after recent deathly dreary days. As such, my gift-to-me could actually be seen as a legitimate business expense, wouldn't you say?

So I have had a lovely few days hand making. Lots of divine vintage fabrics, woolly felt and embroidery silks in mouth watering shades.

I always receive a flurry of compliments on my little clock brooch whenever I wear it so I have made a couple more which I am finding very hard to relinquish! Each of these has taken me over three hours to make as they are entirely hand cut and sewn. They even have their own little appliqued mouse (in lieu of Mr HenHouse's suggestion that I embroider GWR on the face!)

I enjoyed matching beautiful fussy cut patches of vintage fabric with plain cottons and hand cutting those dinky felt flowers.

I had a request for one of my felty heart brooches which sold out long ago and once I started, I couldn't stop! I loved thinking up the colour combinations for these.

An entirely different technique brought about these rather cute and pretty woolly flower brooches, inspired by the spirit of make do and mend, 1940's style.

More of my "cameo" style brooches, this time cutting into a treasured stash of Darlene Zimmerman reproduction 1930's cottons, paired with some pretty fussy cut patches of vintage hand embroidery. Can you make out the little carnations and tiny birds on the cottons?

I like my brooches to be just as pretty on the back and take care selecting ditsy print cottons or felts in co-ordinating colours for the reverse.

Haven't I been a busy bee! And my gift? How do you like my glorious 1930's toffee tin? I just LOVE it. Thank you, Clare, of Vintage Home, for finding the most sublime vintage treasures which I simply cannot resist. If ever I am in need of delightful vintage eye candy, your shop is where I always head.

All of the pretty brooches, and more besides, are waiting new owners here in my Etsy shop. Perfect as a Wintery pick-me-up gift for you, or maybe you can do better than me, and make inroads into your Christmas gift list!

What can I say? The cloth was another gift to myself at the Country Living Fair last week. A lost cause?!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Drink up thy Zyder!

I think it's time to embrace Autumn, readers (you mean you have already?) and what could be better to mark this season than a trip to the cider farm. Off we go deep into the heart of smiling Somerset whereupon we stumble on a scene from years past.

In our opinion, there's no finer brew than the cider produced at Burrow Hill. Tucked away along a country lane, we stumbled upon The Somerset Distillery years ago, entirely by accident. We were entranced by the place and we return errm, quite frequently.

This area of South Somerset is notable for its fields of apple orchards stretching into the distance. Sheep graze under the old apple trees, there's even the odd snorting pig snaffling up the windfalls (it's true!) and there's an abundance of wild birds.

This cider farm is a ramshackle old place, and I say that in the very best sense of the word. Peace pervades, the air is filled with the scent of apples in the yard waiting to be turned into a delicious brew and if you've just £6 or so, you can walk away with a 4 litre container of the best cider you'll ever have tasted.

This place is also known for producing the popular "Somerset Cider Brandy" (an English version of Calvados) and they also make various aperitifs and juices. In the yard, there are various displays of old stills and cider making equipment.

I think this would be a great place to photograph some sludgey quilts!

At certain times of the year, you can take a guided walk through the orchards to view the blossom or the apples and hear the owner, Julian Temperley (father of fashion designer Alice and quite a character), tell you everything you could ever wish to know about cider apple varieities and cider making. I'm getting thirsty just thinking about it!

Harvest time, around October, is the most exciting time to visit. The amount of apples piled up in the yard and waiting in tractors to be pressed is quite jaw dropping. The scent in the air is rather heady.

Don't they look delightful?

On with the job then. The apples process along a channel in the yard's floor and are washed on the way. They then pass through various stages, pressing the apples, extracting the juice, disposing of the pulp and so on.

Hmm, that doesn't look so nice!

Finally, in the depths of the barn where the air is very cool, the cider rests in enormous vats.

Until we come along, that is! You can have your containers filled up from the oak casks, requesting dry, medium or sweet (and having a taster, of course).

In addition, there is a range of bottled ciders and juices which have a longer shelf life (we find the fresh cider lasts about two weeks in the fridge, if we haven't drunk it all by then!) I often buy these and put some in the hampers I make up as gifts at Christmas. You can also buy cider brandy truffles, cider vinegar crisps and apple chutney and recipes are available for interesting cocktails to make using the farm's cider and spirits.

Oh dear, it was really too early in the day for writing this post! Apple juice it is then...

P.S. To those of you very kind people who took the time to wish me "happy birthday", very many thanks, your thoughtfulness was very much appreciated.