Monday, 25 November 2013

Everything and the Kitchen Sink

I seem to have been spending a lot of my time in the kitchen recently. As my kitchen is pretty much my pride and joy, this is no hardship.  I've been baking.  The Munchkin has had bake sales with the Scouts to raise funds.  There have been cakes, or muffins actually, for Crafty Wednesday at Stag and Bow.

Not forgetting, a special day of the year is looming, so it was out with the dried fruits, the oranges and lemons for zest, and the booze!

When I'm not cooking or eating in the kitchen, I'm enjoying the pretty things on display.  Most of the items have come from thrifty charity or house clearance shops, flea markets and the odd, more splurgey, Ebay item.  I am predisposed towards candy colours, as you can tell.  It sometimes strikes me as not entirely appropriate for this time of year, I suppose it is a Spring/Summer-like kitchen, but in just a couple of weeks time, I'll be changing things for bright reds and greens.  I will love that for a while but I will be happy to be back to my customary palette.  I would be quite happy to have Spring and Summer all year round, though I do appreciate the beauty of the changing seasons.

It's not just a display, to be fair.  I tried hard when we renovated the kitchen last year, to have things in it which I could and would actually use.  There are a few things which don't get used, I'll be honest, and are too precious and pretty, but the vintage Pyrex, glassware, tins and so on, are regularly used.  I recently found the pretty frosted lemonade glasses in a house clearance shop.  Glasses do not last long in our home so I fear they should stay out of harm's way, up on the shelves, save for high days and holidays.  Ironically, they were probably cheaper than going out and buying new drinking glasses but they're infinitely more precious, of course.  It's the colours, the daintyness of them (there's nothing nicer than drinking from a vessel made of thin glass), and of course, the FROSTING!  I like to imagine it is sugar.

Anyway, where were we?  Ah yes, in the kitchen.  May we talk pot holders?  Oh I do so love a good pot holder.  I spent an inordinate amount of time while the kitchen revamp was underway, scouring Etsy for the perfect combination of vintage crocheted pot holders.  I am very proud of my pot holder wall, if I may be so bold to say so.

And you know, they are jolly useful little items.  Well, I say that on the basis that no way would I put one of these vintage beauties to a hot dish, but I do have a sad little blue silicon pair which are very practical but well, rather dispiritingly ugly.  They hide away in a drawer which is not very handy when I need to grab one.

I decided what I needed to do was make some fabric pot holders I could actually use.  I am not short of fabric, right?

I took up a lovely book I bought a few weeks ago, one "Patchwork Please" by Ayumi Takahashi.  It has some very pretty projects in it, in true Japanese Zakka style, which appeals to me for its precision and attention to detail, cute fabrics and all-round gorgeousness.  It just so happened that I recalled there was a pot holder project in it.  This uses a technique called foundation paper piecing which I have employed before in my favourite "Spangled Star" quilt.  You print the basic pattern onto copy paper.  Then, starting in the centre, you lay an individual piece of fabric onto the reverse side of the paper (a light box or sunny window comes in handy), and stitch the relevant seam lines on the other, printed side.  You then flip it over, press, add another and so on.  Quite time consuming.  Quite addictive. It takes a little to get your head round but once you have it, you're off.  The advantage of this technique is that it gives you perfect precision.

Before long, my first pot holder was hot off the needle.

They'd be nice in vintage fabrics, thought I.  Out came the scrap drawer to piece the front, and thereafter, my pretty toffee tin in which I keep all my leftover bits of bindings from my large quilts.  Waste not, want not.  The leftovers often prove perfect for these little scrappy projects.

(So many dark photos now the sun has gone and the dark descended shortly after 4pm.)

After a while, I was hand stitching the binding at Crafty Wednesday.

By now, (we know each other quite well, you and I, don't we, reader), there was no chance of me making just one or even two pot holders, was there?

Toadstools, roses, polka dots, gingham.  In modern cottons and pretty colours, bright or candy.

Pretty vintage fabrics from around 1930 to the 1950s, of course. Rescued vintage embroidered linen in the centre and fabulous candy-stripes to hand bind, just like a mini quilt.

You will not have needed a crystal ball to know that I have a few to offer you should you find yourself desirous; as a pretty and practical treat for your good self maybe, or a beautiful and useful Christmas gift for another (lovely and light, so inexpensive to post). You shall find them in my Etsy shop.

Thanks for reading along.  Xxx

Monday, 18 November 2013

A Birthday Treat

Back tracking a little to late October, a certain young person turned yet another year older.  All those cliches about time flying and how fast they grow up really are true, it seems.  For the first time, the Munchkin's birthday fell (just about) in term-time so we waited until the following weekend before treating him to a little surprise trip up North.

We had a good journey up to York, letting the train take the strain, as they say.  That you can travel from Kings Cross to York in two hours still amazes me.

Now my very useful Mr HenHouse had noted to me that the Scarborough Vintage Fair was taking place that very weekend.  So, on Saturday, we caught the train once more and headed for the coast via some picturesque scenery.

It was a little blowy and wet in Scarborough but we set off for The Spa at the far end of the beach, an easy stroll from the railway station.  It is said there has been some sort of spa on the site since the early 1700s and indeed, Scarborough was declared England's first true seaside resort, somewhere "nice to take the waters".  The building now mainly dates to the 1880s and in its time has been host to a  glittering array of music hall stars.  It is quite magnificent and so fantastic to see it being used today as a venue for all sorts of events.  Did I take a photo of the outside?  No.  Oh!  Here's a nice one of our approach to the sea front.

The Fair was held both in several of the smaller ante rooms (where there was also a tea room and a NAAFI in another), and in the main grand hall.  What a splendid setting.

It was extremely busy with visitors and there were some goodies to be had, at sensible "out-of-London prices".  There was also a friendly welcome from everyone we met.  I was entranced by a stall held by two young ladies whose family has owned a gift shop in Scarborough for decades.  When clearing out an upstairs storage room recently, a whole hoard of vintage jewellery and gift stock was discovered.  Oh be still my beating heart.  I was spoiled for choice with the really lovely original 1940s and '50s pieces they had.  (Mr HH bought me one of the gorgeous green doggie fobs for my birthday.)

Some people are just so silly.

When we ventured back out into the open air, we were delighted to see the sun had come out and set off for a brisk stroll across the sands, all the while hunting for sea glass.

And happy days, look who we happened to find!

I do so love a donkey and what a treat to find some still on the beach.  The Munchkin did not need asking twice before hopping into the saddle and going off for a trot.  (Do donkeys trot, I wonder?)  Despite being twelve years old, it seems he loves riding the donkeys just as much as ever.  Hurrah.

Our destination was the far end of the beach and one Harbour Bar.  This is always a must-stop when in Scarborough.  We learned that the cafe was opened one week after the end of the Second World War and is still making award winning ice creams under the ownership of the same family.  As you can see, the decor is a true delight.

The menu is suitably retro.  Cherryade ice cream floats...

...and of course, all sorts of sundaes and a knickerbocker glory as big as the Munchkin who chose it.  It just so happened I matched the decor and my banana sundae!

Feeling somewhat chubbier, I was rather dreading the trek back up to the station.  Then Mr HH reminded me that we could take the cliff tram.  Phew.

After a lovely day in Scarborough, where else could we spend Sunday in York but at the National Railway Museum.  You will know if you've read this blog before, that Mr HH and the Munchkin are avid steam railway fans and I've grown quite partial, myself.  Indeed, my very favourite engines are the A4s, those fantastic streamlined numbers from the 1930s.  Only 6 of these now remain. Mallard, holder of the famous speed record, lives at the NRM, three other A4s work out on the mainline, hauling special charters mainly (Sir Nigel Gresley is usually at the the North Yorkshire Moors Railway in Pickering, of course,) and the other two live overseas.  

Thanks to a group of dedicated folk, plans were made and the two engines were shipped from North America back to England where they have undergone an extensive overhaul and now look rather splendid.  As such, it was a rare opportunity to see all six of the big A4s all together before they go back to America next year.  The boys informed me that the NRM was very busy thanks to this special display but they haven't been to the Festival of Quilts if they think that is busy!  It was impossible to take a decent shot of all the engines together but it was a great and memorable day, not least because you could also go up on the footplate of all the A4 engines.  (Apologies if you do not share our enthusiasm for steam engines and were expecting chat about quilts or vintage frocks!)

So let's finish with something a little crafty because as all you dedicated crafters know, the first thing to pack when you're going away is your chosen crafty project.  I decided to finally use these lovely vintage fabric circles I bought from America via Etsy (I think they were once Suffolk Puffs).  I've looked at them on my shelves for far too long!

I started fashioning them into fabric flowers.  Indeed, I've pretty much finished them and I enjoyed it very much.  I've added felt circles with embroidered French knots to the centres.  When they're truly finished, I'll pop back and show you.

I did come back with some lovely little treasures from the vintage fair.  I think my fave has to be this very cute "make do and mend" pony.  I'm pretty sure that if I looked back in my 1940's magazines, I would find the pattern to make him.  As always with my vintage finds, I love thinking back to the life this pony might have had.  Fashioned from the rag bag with scraps from a blanket or old coats or hats, with some swirly embroidery for good measure.  A real treasure to a child on a Christmas or birthday morning, perhaps, at a time when you couldn't just go out and buy everything you wanted from the shop (or even the www).

In the background, you can see a rather jolly fabric creation on my design wall.  It is now a pretty fetching finished quilt and one day soon, this Winter weather permitting, I'd like to share it with you.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Workshop Wonders

Hello readers.  It's been too long but never mind, eh.  I hope you're all keeping well and not too chilly if in our Western hemisphere.  Let's charge on and look at what I got up to recently.  It was time for a crafty workshop, one led by someone else for me to attend. I do love workshops, it's good to try something new and be influenced by other people's styles.  First issue though.  How to decide what to take with me, from my rather burgeoning Den!  This is almost like torture.  What if I need this, or that...  In the end, I take loads and use hardly any of it!  Will I ever learn.  Best to be prepared, is my motto.

I set off for the East End, one tube line closure and a very expensive taxi ride later, I arrived in Bethnal Green and was excited to see that the delightful Jessie Chorley had prepared a little pack of goodies for each of us attendees, to get us started.

The theme was Christmas.  I was not feeling that Christmassy, I have to confess.  That only usually takes place for me after my and the Munchkin's birthdays in late October/early November.  But I could not resist getting stuck in upon seeing the beautiful examples Jessie had made.  Pretty cakes, for fuel, too!

Jessie invited us to make some Christmas cards, a decorated bauble and a little hanging decoration, all influenced by her distinctive style.

Jessie always brings cases full of lovely crafty materials to which we are all invited to help ourselves.  That's my idea of Christmas!

Some of Jessie's work was on display to inspire us.

I had also brought some materials of my own.  I found this box at a vide grenier (or car boot sale) in France last Summer and I am always squirrelling away bits of vintage lace and trims.

Being the magpie that I am, mine were possibly quite bright and festive looking.

After the workshop, which as always, passed far too quickly, we were invited back to Jessie's shop on Colombia Road, a short walk away.  It was dusk and the shop looked very inviting upon arrival.

Inside, it was like a very pretty fairy grotto.

Beautiful items, handmade by Jessie and her friend Budding, often using found objects, were on display.

I treated myself to a beautiful silk petticoat which had been patched and stitched by Jessie.

Since the workshop, I have enjoyed spending the odd hour here and there, between quilt commissions, working some more on my pieces.

Sometimes working on a teeny tiny scale.  Here, a Fair Isle stocking to hang from the fireplace.

I even made a new piece, using some lovely stamps I bought from Jessie.

Good friends deserve to be thanked.

Thank you too, for reading along today. Xxx