Monday, 30 January 2012

Packing Up

Just a quicky post today, folks.

Spurred on by some very lovely (and cheap!) fabric which I bought from the Ardingly Quilt Festival on Saturday, yesterday, I finally decided to tackle a dress making pattern I bought ages ago. I must confess, one of my weaknesses is getting over excited and buying patterns which I take ages (or never get round) to making.

I bought this Colette pattern from Liberty, it wasn't cheap as patterns go but I had heard good things about these patterns and the styles are lovely and vintage-inspired. They also cover a huge size range from skinnies to curvies. Hurrah! Although the pattern states it is beginner level, I think you need to be fairly confident before setting off on this. Personally, I have very good intentions when it comes to making clothes but I don't usually enjoy it that much. I've had so many items turn out too small or too large and then have no idea how to alter them.

I'm happy to report that I did rather enjoy making this blouse and am pleased with how it has turned out. It's also a pretty good fit!

Sorry to rush on... Other sewing I've whipped up recently is this little collection of bags, jolly useful they are too. I made them to house different collections of crafty bits 'n' bobs; vintage lace, ribbons, bits of embroidered cloths and so on.

You see I'm in a rush as I'm packing to head off to Sussex for a few days, crikey four days away from my beloved Den. No complaints though, I can't wait to spend four days and three nights in the company of other like minded crafty fellows, learning new skills and not doing a shred of housework! Not forgetting our tutor, whom I greatly admire and am massively inspired by. Eeek, very over-excited here!

So, I will love you and leave you, readers as I need to get off and still have many important clothing/accessories/pinny selection issues to wrangle with. But the important stuff is packed!

See you soon...

Friday, 27 January 2012

A Lovely Trip

Last weekend, we made a rare trip "oop North" to see my family in my hometown of Chester. For those of you who don't know Chester, it' s a walled Roman city and very picturesque (it also happens to have very good shops).

A week or so earlier, we had spotted that this fabulous poster went up for auction. As you know, we are quite fond of vintage railway posters.

So on a gloriously sunny Saturday, we all wrapped up and went off for a walk, to show Mr HenHouse "The Groves", which is the riverside location pictured in the poster. I'm pleased to say the poster is quite an accurate representation; many railway posters show scenes which bear no resemblance to the "not so pretty" reality!

Many of the town's most desirable residences border the River Dee.

Heading into town, I spotted this rather cute shop at the bottom of a street I wouldn't often need to wander along, and decided to take a closer look.

Oooh, isn't this shop positively dreamy? It's the sort of shop you read of in children's story books but don't imagine exists anymore in reality. Sadly, it was shut but promised to be a real treasure trove. I think as it is such a specialist shop, possibly it is one which only opens on request to collectors. Hmm, I think in the future I shall return.

Up on Chester's historic Rows, I made a beeline for this shop.

It's one of the cosiest shops I know and reminds me of the beautiful shops I once visited in New England. It has a good selection of patchworking fabrics, including many of the Civil War reproduction style ("sludge") and I was looking for something in particular.

I absolutely adore these little wooden buildings. I want!!! (But I was very good and restrained.)

Happily, I found what I was looking for, which was the checked border fabric for this dolly quilt which I pieced at the cottage over the New Year holiday.

It's another Kathleen Tracy pattern from her book, "Prairie Children and their Quilts". It is called the "Schoolgirl Sampler Quilt". A sampler quilt is one which contains many different blocks, the idea being that it gives the maker good practice in a variety of techniques, hence being ideal for a learner or schoolgirl. As Kathy says in her book: "The sampler has a long tradition in American needlework. Young schoolgirls may have practiced sewing and quilting simple blocks until they were more proficient at the craft..."

I can tell you that it was rather challenging to make, though undoubtedly enjoyable so long as one is not too exacting. So many little pieces and so many points to line up and not chop off! It measures about 16" x 20.5".

I have also just finished this little dolly quilt which is from the same book and called the "Crosses Mourning Quilt". For the rest of this year, Kathy is selecting one quilt each month from one of her four books for members of her "Small Quilt Talk" group to complete if they fancy. She also gives us a special variation on the design so members can choose which to make if they want to do so. This is the variation, a little smaller than the version in the book. It measures approximately 16" square.

Kathy's book not only provides beautiful quilt patterns but goes into the history of the pioneers, those who travelled the arduous journey in order to settle land in the West back in the middle of the nineteenth century in America. As Kathy explains, quilts were often taken along by the pioneers on their long journey and sadly, they might have ended up being used to comfort the sick or shroud the dead. Kathy designed the quilt as a tribute to those pioneers who died on the trail. Some of the quilt group members have made it using clothing from loved ones who have since sadly passed.

I have used new fabrics to make my quilt but I can share with you a special photo which my mum gave to me last weekend. It shows her "nain" or her great-great-great (I think) grandmother, nain being the Welsh word for grandmother. Mum also kindly gave me these jet beads which belonged to one of her ancestors, too. I think they look perfect alongside the quilt.

Happy weekend, my wonderful readers.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Posy Time

Oh my giddy aunt. It's not, it is? It can't be? Is that... THE SUN...I see peeping out from behind the grey clouds?

Hello readers, that was a bit of an unintended absence there. It's not that I haven't been busy, oh I have, or that I haven't got anything to share with you, oh I have, but perhaps I've been so engrossed in what I've been up to that the thought of spending a whole morning wrangling with flashes and lighting and goodness knows what else, had me scurrying away from the camera and hunkering down with some crafty projects.

The Bagpuss Table has had a bit of a change over today. I still have been completely obsessed and inspired with the two binders of wartime mags which I found in Lewes a few weeks back (which Charlie Boy told you about). They are utterly delightful but what grabs me the most is that they contain lots of patterns for posy brooches which has always been a bit of an obsession of mine. So, a posy-inspired table it is.

A few weeks ago, we spent a marvellous Sunday at the flea market at Shepton Mallet. It was a glorious bright and crisp day and the stall holders were out in force. Oh it was really my idea of heaven! I managed to lay my anxious mitts on something I'd been after for a while. It may not be what you expected.

Ah there you are, a decidedly uninteresting and dark photo taken a few days ago, of the tweed jacket I bought at Shepton. For £5.

I was most thrilled to see that inside it bears the coveted label; this is a vintage jacket made from the finest Harris Tweed, Made in England. Hurrah! Off it went to the dry cleaners, bringing my total jacket spend to £10.

But the Harris Tweed's jacket story does not end there, oh no. Time for gratuitous photos. For in The Tweed's future were divine 1940's-ish vintage fabrics...

...delightful vintage embroidered cloths (oh dear, yet more came home from Shepton)... very best flowery and vintagey buttons...

And also, a large pair of scissors and a needle and thread. The Tweed was too long in the arm and body for me so a little amateur tailoring went on. Gulp. Ah well, it only cost £10!

We're digressing though, from The Tweed, for a few moments. Back to my beloved wartime binder.

Yesterday, I idly flicked through them and finally settled on a posy pattern to give a go, eager as I was to chop into the rather lovely wool felt I bought at the weekend. You can tell how very much better most people were at crafty stuff back then (by which I mean the early 1940s) as the instructions for making things are relatively sketchy. No hand-holding and squillions of photos like nowadays. I was reading another of my historical 1940's books the other day which informed me that jewellery was in very short supply during the war which is why ladies turned to making their own from felt, fabric and scraps of leather, raffia and basically whatever they could lay their hands on. Well, I'm so glad they did.

The posy I chose you can see in the bottom right hand corner of this page. The instructions are to make a leather bag and a marigold posy from "skiver". I have never heard this term before but it appears to be a type of leather (enlighten us, anyone?)

No skiver for me, but pretty wool felt instead and rather than making marigolds in yellows and oranges, I went for my more usual colour palette. Oh happy days!

It really is quite a whopping posy or as Mr HenHouse rather rudely said last night, "It's massive". What he and you don't know is that the pattern was actually for four flowers in the posy so imagine how gargatuan that would be!

Well I utterly love my posy and it really brightens up that Harris Tweed a treat and gives it the necessary feminine touch, I think.

I see The Tweed dressed down with jeans and a roll neck but I see it dressed up with a tea dress, too.

Aaarrgghh, I did not see it dressed up (or down) with a ginger furball!

Why is this silly jacket on my eidy where I take my naps?

There, that's better.

And whilst I was at it, I thought I'd have a go at another posy from my book. This time, daisies. Except you guessed it, there was no way I could stick to a two-tone colour palette! I'm wearing it today, on my beloved and very cosy Aran cardi.

Thanks for returning to read. By the way, the lovely Carol let me know that she'd been unable to comment on my blog for a while and suggested a fix which I've carried out. It's worked for her. Yipeeeee. All this...and sunshine!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Checking In

Crikey, it's cold, brrr. It's dark (most of the day). What to do but cuddle up and get cosy? Mummy has got my heated pad out and plugged it in. It's under the cover of my cushion. Golly, it's warming me up a treat but it makes me sleepy!

What a change from the weekend when it was lovely and sunny and when Mummy left me again to go to something she calls a "flea market". She brought me back these old fake flowers and put them in a jug near my cushion-bed. Still, I suppose it's not a bad exchange for my fleas?

Vorey Puss has taken up residence this week on the armchair.

Mummy says to tell you she is still beyond excited at her find in Lewes the other weekend which is these old books. What is it with her and old scruffy-looking things?

She wanted to do a proper blog post about them but the photos were rubbish as it's so dark all day and they "don't do justice" to the old books. Hey, one has a black cat on. Is it Vorey?

Today, she's been fiddling round with bits of wire Daddy gave to her and bits of coloured fluffy fabric stuff called felt and looking at pictures and diagrams in those old books. Why she finds this so marvellous beats me.

She says she'll show you soon but is very time-poor at the moment (and sunlight-poor). She kept muttering on something like "how am I meant to work in these conditions?"

We're only keeping her company.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

More Dolly Quilts

I can't say that I found the Christmas and New Year period particularly restful. For us ladies it still seems to me that all that cooking and housework doesn't go away! We de-camped to the cottage a few days after Christmas and I did there find a few hours to get on with a bit of sewing. Before setting off, I grabbed my basket and shoved a few handfuls of Civil War reproduction fat quarters in, my "Prairie Children and their Quilts" book by Kathleen Tracy and a few other bits and pieces to allow me to get crafty on a small scale whilst I was away.

First, I finished off a couple of projects. As soon as Kathy's most recent book, "The Civil War Sewing Circle" came out about a year ago, I knew I wanted to make the "Hexagon Flowers Doll Quilt" on the cover. The hexy flowers are traditionally hand pieced over papers so it was the perfect project to take with me on our trip to Pickering back in October. I did most of the flowers whilst I was there, they take quite some time, each individual hexagon template is about 5/8". Every now and then since October, I have picked the project up and done a little more work on it; appliqued the flowers down, pieced the blocks and finally hand quilted this little quilt. I love the border fabric, one of Jo Morton's latest.

Although I've used "sludge" fabrics, I tried to go for quite bright ones in this quilt. It measures approximately 19" x 15.5".

Next, I made this pinky chocolately quilt, mainly as I wanted to practise hand quilting and this quilt had a particularly pretty "orange peel" design which meant a lot of hand quilting. It's not something I'm particularly good at but it's one of those things that needs a lot of practise. I try not to be too precious about it and just enjoy it. It does make you sit down and relax for the odd hour, not something I'm that good at! This one measure approximately 20.5" x 16.5" and is also from Kathy's book "The Civil War Sewing Circle" (the "Pink Patches Doll Quilt"). It was a joy to make, relatively easy and good to practise those setting triangles which all went together really well.

Once I'd finished off the pink squares quilt, I needed to choose another project one rainy afternoon in the West Country. I flicked through Prairie Children and opted for the "Bear's Paw Quilt" as it looked quite simple and was suitably scrappy to go with the limited range of fabrics I had brought with me. I had been working on a large Civil War type quilt at home so I made use of all the scraps from that quilt in this little one. In all honesty, this design hadn't captured my eye at first but I really loved making it and think it's a lovely quilt with bright, jewel-like colours. It measures about 18" square. I managed to compete this in a day or so, after my sister sent me an emergency piece of batting in the post! Somebody please open a decent quilting shop near the cottage!

Last but not least, this quilt caught my eye this week (pattern also in "Prairie Children") and I picked up a suitable border fabric in Lewes on Saturday. This was much harder to put together than I thought as there were a lot of points to match up and not cut off when it came to putting the blocks together. I ripped quite a few blocks apart and remade them, arrrgghhh. This one measures about 19" x 15".

Kathy had written a little message in each muslin triangle which I really liked and so did likewise. Kathy called this one the "Signature Quilt", each triangle could have contained a signature from a loved one instead of the little message of friendship. I tried polyester batting in this one but didn't like it as much as my usual thin cotton batting as I think it has a higher loft.

Now I'm going to try the Crosses Mourning Quilt which Kathy has challenged members of her Yahoo Small Quilts Group to make. Fun! She's a clever lady.

I'm getting quite a little collection of doll quilts now! Charlie Boy is happy.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

How Not to Iron (etc)

The only thing in favour of ironing in the HenHouse is that it gets done in the Den because that's where the ironing board (and it's friend, the iron,) lives. It lives here solely because patchwork necessitates a lot of ironing which does rather elevate the simple yet deathly task of ironing to another level.

How better to improve the terrible task than making sure one is ironing lovely things? For there's nothing quite so deathly as a week's worth of men's shirts with all their fiddly collars and cuffs in their boring pale colours; ooh a stripe, maybe a mini check, how riveting. Funnily enough, ironing the latest influx of fat quarters or, ultimate fave, the embroidered cloths, takes this task to giddy heights!

Yesterday, the HenHouse gang set off on a little family outing to Lewes, an outing which has many things going for it before one sallies forth from the threshold.

  1. Ability to travel by rail from local station five minutes walk away, to station right in the heart of Lewes (at reasonable price with Family Railcard).
  2. Prior knowledge that "The Patchwork Dog and Basket", splendid shop retailing all manner of fabric and quilty "must haves" shall be open.
  3. Plentiful smattering of charity shops which just might yield reasonably priced goodies donated by the good folk of the desirable catchment area (or at very least, StarWars books to keep obsessed son happy).
  4. Plethora of other fine vintage-selling establishments to facilitate hours of moochy, browsy pleasure not facilitated on the boring old high street.
  5. Bumping into and chatting with the Mavellous Mary of the Vintage Cottage, whose amazing collection of vintage I have long admired from afar on Flickr. Who would have thought it? (Ok, this is not one I knew about before leaving home. Just an added bonus but it will be on the list next time, just in case Mary often frequents the vintage establishments of Lewes, and you know, I think she just might.)
  6. Possibility of making feline aquaintances along the way and indulging in a hefty furry-purry stroking session. (Yes, I added this one afterwards too.)

(Hen with divine furry friend outside one of Lewes' vintage establishments.)

Find number one, which also happened to be in need of ironing, this rather divine floral vintage pillow case (which is rather giant, so suspect may be of European origins). Will it ever be cut up and made into other "things", knowing that Hen indeed has a weakness for justifying the purchase of such items for said purpose but never bringing herself to do the same?

Embroidered pillowcases: how can ironing not be a pleasure when smoothing out these little beauties? Who in this day and age, would find the time to beautifully embroider something just to lay one's weary head and close one's eyes upon (and snore the night away in the case of a certain inhabitant of the HH)? Thank goodness our talented predecessors did.

Find number two from Lewes: a barkcloth floral curtain. Ah ha, have been meaning to make new vintagey cushions for the sitting room for some time thinks Hen, this shall be just the thrifty ticket, lots of fabric for a bargain price. Better give that an iron, and ironing barkcloth which doesn't crease much in the first place, is so satisfying, yes indeedy.

Find from another outing in Bridders: a rather delightful vintage embroidered anti-macassar (what a super word). Whilst ironing such a beauty, one can basically forget the task in hand and instead transport oneself to a scene of sharp pleasure, chopping up said cloth and re-purposing into something more useful and still beautiful for the current day. Hmm, methinks a patchwork quilt is in the offing.

Entirely forget ironing at this point and ponder fabrics still on the cutting table, newly arrived from American shores this week, a late-delivered Christmas pressie from one's other half. Consider that they shall patchwork delightfully with the aforementioned perfectly ironed anti-macassar for a vintagey 1930's inspired quilt.

Realise that many more fabrics will need to be selected to go into making the perfect patchwork quilt. Find it handy that ironing board/iron are stationed in Den where one can peruse stash to arrive at ideal patchworky blend after much detailed consideration. Might there even be ... (gasp) ... gaps in stash that need filling? Should I just nip onto the computer for ooh, a few minutes, and see if there's anything suitable out there. No, no, nooooo, bad idea. Would not help get the ironing done?

Thinking of stash, wonder quite where I am going to stash newly arrived fabrics lingering on cutting table (x 2 lots from America, and trip to Patchwork Dog and Basket). Hmmm.

Realise that despite fabric buying sessions of previous weeks, I still don't have a fabric suitable for the border on this doll-sized sampler quilt.

Accept with a sigh, that heavenly as fabric pondering has been, ironing shall not do itself.

Stoically turn back to face the ironing...

... and feel grateful for presence in one's life of furry friend with in-built desire to cosy down in piles of freshly washed laundry.