Monday, 27 February 2012

Roll Up!

Let's all hope Spring is on its way. I feel the need to bring in the new! As such, I'm having a grand SALE over in my Etsy shop for a couple of weeks. Many items have up to 30% off and some also have free shipping.

There are owls and peg dolls, bags and pin cushions, brooches and books and that's just for starters. There are items from £6 and nothing is over £50 so there's something for everyone.

Visit my little Etsy shop here!

(Thanks for listening!)

Terrific Treasure Seeking

Morning readers, it's a bit grey and dull here today but I suppose after such a glorious weekend, we can't really complain. If the weather gods are listening though, more of the weekend weather would be much appreciated.

The Munchkin and I left the building work behind and escaped to the West Country during half term last week. Unfortunately, I have inevitably succumbed to the boys' lurgy but at least life was not hugely more demanding than positioning myself in our cosy snug little sitting room and getting on with quilting the flannel, generally at some ungodly hour when I couldn't sleep through serious snuffling.

I can highly recommend quilt making at just about any time of year but in the Winter it's an especially great idea as you can cosy up under the quilt as you sew. And might I say, the flannel is just the most divine furry quilt ever! I have about a quarter of the quilting left to go, then binding, so Charlie-Boy and I are getting pretty excited.

Talking of quilts, I also managed to finish this pretty patchwork quilt whilst I was away. This was a commission from the lovely Mandy who wanted a large quilt (this is about as big as I am happy to make as it fits on my quilting table), the brief being to incorporate Cath K floral prints and the colours pastel pink, green and blue. Mandy was a dream to work with and liked my idea of using 1930's reproduction cottons with the Cath K prints and we decided to add in some yellow and red.

Mandy had some vintage hankies that were special to her which she ideally wanted to incorporate but the colours didn't really go with the front of the quilt. We decided to use one to make the name patch on the back which worked a treat.

Off it went to its new home. Sometimes it is hard to let things go, especially when you've put so much time and care into them, and I have definitely cut down on my commission work lately but hearing another's (thankfully thrilled!) reaction to their quilt always reminds me that it's a really worthwhile thing to do from time to time.

Once Mr HenHouse joined us at the cottage, it was time to go out exploring. Somewhere we'd fancied going to for a while was the little town of Ashburton in Devon and so off we went. We were not disappointed, it's a very quaint place and there are some lovely, individual shops. There are quite a few antiques shops and also a couple of the vintagey variety, as well as a patchworking shop which was an unexpected bonus!

Into The Vintage Emporium we went and were delighted to find Amanda of Shabby Chick fame has a section of her goodies for sale there (she is more usually found at Totnes' Friday market). I couldn't resist a few bits, Amanda!

The shop itself is beautiful, having been an old drapers, indeed I was informed that The Vintage Emporium had patiently waited many years for the shop to become available and finally, was lucky enough to move there.

There are attractive displays throughout the shop and a little corner with a sewing machine for a spot of nifty crafting when time and customers permit, I suspect. I was taken with this dinky toy machine.

Whilst I was ogling the vintage goodies, the Munchkin was overjoyed to find a traditional sweetshop. I was less pleased when he took far too long choosing what he wanted!

Time for a spot of lunch and where else but the absolutely gorgeous "Tea at Taylors", part tea room, part antiques shop. I can report that the sponge cake was delightful and if I may say so, I do consider myself a good judge of a light tasty sponge!

The Munchkin gave it the thumbs up, too.

Finally, we tracked down Ros in The Snug, what a lovely chatty lady. I found a cute homemade 1940's hat and some original vintage fabric covered hangers for my vintage frocks.

It seems she has herself a new shopkeeper!

Mr HenHouse also found some items to take home, ready for a Jubilee party maybe?

We had a lovely time in Ashburton and I'm sure we'll be back but there was no time to waste as on Sunday, it was off to Smiling Somerset to attend the Shepton Mallet Flea Market. This has become a very popular event and was bigger than ever. This meant we were there even longer than ever but made some super thrifty finds and enjoyed catching up with some friends along the way. Oooh, but I do like a good rummage, there's plenty of treasure to be found if you but look hard enough!

The Muscle...

Monday, 20 February 2012

A Very Vintage Weekend

Well, there's another weekend flown by and this past one was rather a good one for me and the old man. With the Munchkin taken care of for the night, I decided we deserved a treat so made a few last minute bookings and told Mr HH to be ready to leave in his vintage finest, late Saturday.

(Please excuse the mess while all the building works are going on.)

We dropped our overnight case at the hotel and then headed out for dinner. We were in the trendy London area of Shoreditch. It was fun to venture somewhere new although in reality, it's not far form where Mr HH works (and I used to work). That's London for you though, go round the corner and it feels like you're in a different place entirely.

Via the handy TopTable, I'd happened upon booking this little restaurant, tucked away down a side street.

Deli by day, it serves a different menu for dinner each night, the chef writing up the dishes on a chalkboard according to what is fresh and available.

We had a great meal. The restaurant is unpretentious, the staff were friendly and attentive, the wine was delicious as was all the food. Hmm, I'm not sure how I fitted it all in, given the vintage foundation garments!

On then to the next stop of our mystery tour, The Fox Pub which was home to The Vintage Mafia's social night, The Ric Rac Club. This particular evening, the girls of The Vintage Mafia were celebrating the launch of a book (about vintage clothing) written by one of their number and in which most of them model the clothes, I think.

It was a nice old boozer and the crowd was not too full thankfully. We enjoyed a complimentary cocktail and otherwise spent the evening in fairly low-key style, having a natter amongst ourselves and listening to the vintage tunes.

It was fun to people watch and most had dressed up really stylishly in vintage or retro clothing.

We managed to just about make it past midnight before heading back to our hotel. It was a treat just to wander five minutes round the corner and flop straight into bed!

You see, the next day, we had more plans and wasted no time getting on our way to Hammersmith to mooch at the London Vintage Fashion Fair.

Oh what delightful goodies. This is a super fair where the goods on offer really can be described as vintage.

These gorgeous '40s shoes were pristine as the seller informed me they had come straight from the old factory where they were made in Belgium. Sadly, as is so often the case with vintage shoes of this era, they were all small, size 3 or thereabouts. Drat! It was a pleasure to see the vintage designs in the flesh.

There is rail after rail of beautiful dresses, many 1930's long floaty chiffon styles, which look so delicate I'd be afraid to wear them but the quality, fabric and beading are stunning. (Put me in the mood perfectly for last night's Upstairs, Downstairs.)

Fabulous accessories also abound.

I love this stall, it is always beautifully arranged and full of pretty brooches and compacts and just delectable vintage treasures.

I also loved that frilly pink lace dress. Oh to have somewhere to go to wear a frock like that!

More beautiful floral dresses hung from rails up on the stage.

Decisions, decisions...

I treated myself to this lovely little dish to hold my ever-expanding collection of vintage jewellery and posy brooches and also snapped up the embroidered black gloves.

And for sunnier days, I couldn't resist a couple of pretty cotton frocks.

Now, back to work and on with the week ahead...

Friday, 17 February 2012

Furry Fun

It's been a funny old week, readers. On Wednesday, the builders descended and we are having some major structural work done here which is likely to take four months. I can't tell you how much I dislike this, whilst knowing it is necessary. I am luckily accustomed to having my days to myself, just me and my furry friends and Radio 2 so the constant presence of (shock) men in the house, banging, clanging and our beloved home being turned on its head is all pretty miserable stuff.

I've retreated into my Den with the furry friends. Of course. Today, I discovered that if I holed up in my quilting room, which is up on the third floor of the house, unless the builders are enjoying a particularly hysterical and noisy moment, I can pretend they're not there!

Thank you, by the way, for all the furry flannelette love. Having pieced the top together in a most enjoyable and if I'm honest, haphazard fashion, I then felt a little daunted at the next steps. It's a large quilt at about 64" x 84" and barely fits on my quilting table. The centre of the quilt didn't seem to be sitting very flat because the flannels naturally have a lot of looseness to their weave, especially those which have been "pre-loved". I planned to hand quilt it and I've never hand quilted something this large. Because of the quilt's size and the hand quilting, I also decided I should baste the quilt sandwich together by hand sewing rather than my usual quick pinning method.

So yesterday, I slacked off, hid in my Den and enjoyed starting to put together the blocks of my "quilt-as-you-go" quilt (we haven't looked at that yet, have we?) But I am very strict with myself, so today it was back to it. I straightened up the edges of the top and it immediately started to look better. I taped the backing down, laid the batting on top ("Dream Puff") and then the quilt top. And blow me if the top didn't smooth out beautifully flat, sort of clinging to the batting. Phew.

I then experimented with various needles to baste, needing a whopping great long one. I found I preferred a really long doll needle than a proper basting needle. I have to say I find this hand basting lark frightfully dull. My sister laughed when I texted her to tell her so, as she loves it. It's just too slow for me. I wish I'd booked her on a train and got her to come and do it for me!

I should have known that before long, I would have a different sort of "helper".

Ummm cosy, perfect for kittys, thinks Jacky-Ginge.

I've now basted quite enough for one day, thank you. I would continue but my fingers, despite various thimbles, are feeling a bit sorry for themselves now. I've been hand quilting every evening recently and my fingers are complaining! I am back in love with the flannel once more and look forward to doing a little more basting tomorrow. I want to get the basting finished and the quilt off my table to then hand quilt at my leisure as I have a new commission to start next week.

In the meantime, a search of the porch has yielded "just delivered by the postie" treasure! Just when I thought Selina Lake couldn't improve on Romantic Style, out comes her latest book which looks to be absolutely mega! This wasn't due to be published until next month so it's an unexpected treat. Ah, I do love it when new books arrive in time for the weekend.

(That's my "quilt-as-you-go" quilt in the background.)

Enjoy the rest over the next few days, won't you? It's half term for us next week ... happy days.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Monkey Business

I'm in the throes of a new love affair, readers.

There he was, sitting up high on a shelf in Girls' Own Store in Bridport on Saturday, with his cheeky little chimp smile, just begging me to bring him home to the cosy comforts of the HenHouse.

Meet Edward Priestnal, so named as this is my grandfather's name and monkey, with his furry face, reminds me of my dear grandad. For every Christmas for as long as I can remember , Grandad has sported a very fine bushy white beard.

It just so happened that a week or so before monkey was discovered, I also came across a most marvellous book. I have many many books and many quilt books. Lots of them contain patterns, which I find inspirational but rarely follow to the tee, but I also have books which just have photos of quilts and these are the ones I inevitably take to bed with me each night for a good pleasurable read.

I found this book after a tip-off on Amy's lovely blog and I ordered it and waited patiently for it to arrive on these shores from America. Very cheap it was too and it arrived very quickly. I'm not interested in what I suppose is the book's primary aim, a guide to valuing quilts, I'm interested purely in drooling over the many photos of divine vintage quilts of all types. But crikey, I pretty much either want to own or make them all!

I was particularly loving the colours and naive simplicity of this doll quilt, a simple one-patch of cotton fabrics circa 1945, without binding but the edges simply turned in on themselves ("knife-edge binding") and finished with a red blanket stitch.

I also was very much drawn to the setting of this quilt at the top of the page. It's again a simple one-patch but with the squares set in diagonal rows, circa 1940.

Well, there was only one thing to do. I mean, it's been very cold recently, and how could I welcome Edward Piestnal to the HenHouse without gifting him his very own quilt?

I used a mixture of modern and vintage fabrics and rather than having identical sets of matching squares in each diagonal row, I switched in a few slightly different fabrics for a bit of a scrappy make do and mend look.

I decided to tie the quilt rather than hand quilting it, to stay with the child-like theme. I used a white wool yarn. I put a very thin batting in the middle and went with that knife-edge binding with red blanket stitching. Finally, I (gasp) immersed the finished quilt in a tea bath (yes, a sink full of tea of the drinking variety) to give it a bit of an aged look. Of course, it then dried a little crinkly.

So there sits a very happy monkey in his vintage crib, found thriftily by my sister a good while ago now and waiting for just such a moment.

I made him a pillow and finally, a pillowcase from vintage feedsack.

I've loved every minute of this indulgent project, it has to be said!

But EP was a little lonely so some vintage friends hopped in to join him!