Monday, 23 June 2014

Here Comes Summer

Hello readers.  It's true isn't it, for those of us in Blighty?  We're enjoying some fabulous weather at the moment.  I cannot get enough of it.  England in the sunshine, you cannot beat it.  Everything in the garden is at its peak; the fruit has started to ripen, the roses are blooming, the birds have fledged and I've picked the first raspberries.  The ones old Blackie did not beat me to.  I watched him feeding his fat fluffy baby, feasting on my ripe red fruit!  It was worth it for the privilege of the spectacle.

Summer fruit means a few things to me.  One: Eton Mess, oh yes indeedy.  Two: jam, jam and more JAM!  Whilst the Mr and the Master were out on a Scouting activity day in the woods recently, they foraged some elderflower for me.  There you see it, suspended in its muslin bag in the brewing strawberries.  Just delicious.  Bring on the scones.

Last Tuesday, I experienced a day which left me reeling.  I consider myself a bit of an old hand at this vintagey lark so it doesn't happen that often.  I took myself off, armed with map, for the South of England Showground or as most folks affectionately call it, Ardingly.  I have been here before, as there is a quilting show here in January and it is very close by the boys' favourite Bluebell Steam Railway.  However, I'd not before attended the antiques and collectors fair.

I've been to the same type of IACF fairs at Newark (pretty fabulous but must be twelve years or more since I've been) and Shepton Mallet.  Given this one is not much more than an hour or so away, I don't know why I haven't been before.  It was a glorious day, I was quite red faced by the time I got home later that afternoon!

OH MY!!!   This event is huge.  It is held mainly outdoors but there are some indoor areas too, and quite a lot of gazebo type affairs.  It is quite overwhelming in scale as it's massive, I think it would be too tiring to even try to see the whole thing in a day.  I found myself wandering round looking out for anything vaguely textile-y.  

I found it.

Let me at it.

What I liked about this event so much was that there was plenty of cheaper moochy stuff on offer.  At the Shepton Mallet Antiques event, I do think there is more of an emphasis on the expensive.  Diamonds or a Rolex anyone?  This was much more like Shepton's flea market but much better even.  I know. Yikes!!!  The only downside?  £20 to get in.  Yes.  Ouch.  I've forgotten it already as obviously, had the hordes of other folks there.

There was everything on offer from textiles to furniture to jewellery and everything in between.  There was a lot of French stuff, I thought, which is quite popular amongst the well-heeled Sussex set, maybe.   Lots of washed-out white and pastel stuff, linens, enamelware and chippy paint.

This stall was literally mind blowing.  It was huge and had more haberdashery stuff than you could shake your (vintage) knitting needles at.  I was a bit speechless.

Did I find any fabrics?  You bet I did.  More than I could actually buy or carry.  Vintage European linens anyone?

It wasn't all textiles.  I've always fancied a dovecote.  One day.

I came home with arms which certainly felt twice the length and a really thrilling horde of goodies. 

The next day, I spent a good while hand washing all these tiny snippets of fabrics.  I can't wait to get creating with them.

After all that very hard shopping, there has had to be a bit of downtime in the evenings.  As we Brits know only too well, you need to make the most of this weather.  Eating outdoors is most definitely on the agenda.

The furry friends are really feeling their furry coats at the moment.

I'm gripped with a Ros Byam Shaw book and English country house style obsession at the moment.  I've just devoured Perfect English which I finally managed to get my hands on via Ebay, not having bought it first time around.  Now I'm onto this one.  The rose is definitely flowing in these here parts.

Over the weekend, we repaired westwards to our little slice of country.  What an idyll it is at the moment.  It was a certain somebody's birthday.  Presents in bed, hurrah, followed by a super day at a steam railway.

Today, back at home and with a new exciting (long promised) quilt commission on my hands, it was time to clear the decks and tidy the Den.  Time to find space for my new goodies.

Perfect unused Forties' fabrics.  Old haberdashery and millinery flowers.  Buttons with budgies on.  A felt flowery needle case.  Wartime Housewife magazines.  An old chocolate box choc-full of gorgeous embroidery silks in every colour of the rainbow.  Some other things too (cough cough).  I am happy.  *Sigh*

I hope there is plenty keeping you happy these days. Xxx

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

A Friendly Quilt and More

It's a good few years since I started blogging but Instagram has been a more recent phenomenon for me.  I love it because it's so quick and easy, very visual and is a great way for keeping in touch, almost as if you're with the person there and then.

I've also met some really lovely people, some of whom have become friends, through both blogging and IG.  Erin is one of these people, a lovely smiley lady who also lives in London and shares a love of crafting.  We've got together quite a few times, either at the crafternoons she holds at her "Granny Shack" or here in the HenHouse.  Awww.

I was thrilled when Erin mentioned some time ago that she might like to have a quilt made.  We pinned away a few images for inspiration on Pinterest and finally got together here in the Den one Sunday afternoon to ransack my stash.  No purple, I had to remember!  I knew Erin liked bright colours, she wanted the main colour to be red, and she liked feedsack style designs.  I pulled out an awful lot of stash to get a good mix.

We settled on a design that was a real hotchpotch mix of styles.  Some sixteen and one-patch blocks, some rail fence and log cabin style.  The pile soon grew.  I enjoyed making the blocks with my friend in mind and with those colours, you couldn't help but feel cheerful.

Design wall time came a few days later...

Then it was basting and quilting.  I enjoyed being able to give Erin instantaneous updates via IG and it was nice to hear her friends getting excited on her behalf and telling me they thought the quilt was very "Erin"!

There could be only one choice for binding.

Erin said she could come over to meet her quilt in person once it was ready.  So exciting!  

Do you know, of all the (ninety-three) quilts I've made, this is the only one I've ever handed over to a recipient in person.  Even those I've made for family have always had to be sent in the post.  Would she like it?  Eeek!

I persuaded her out into the garden for a little photoshoot.

By jove, I think she likes it!

It was a dream to make, my privilege to be chosen by Erin to make her quilt and so so wonderful to be able to see her reaction on seeing it for the first time.  Thank you, friend.  Here's to Erin and her quilt!

If I may digress and slip in another ta-dah, I'm on a bit of a quilty roll so here is another pretty quilt though sadly it has had to make do without an Erin-style reveal!  

It's a mix of smallish squares in pretty pretty prints and low volume fabrics.  Fun and cute!

It is in my Etsy shop looking for a new home if you feel tempted.


Sunday, 15 June 2014

Of Cabbages and Roses

Well, haven't we been enjoying some glorious weather of late?  It's most welcome, I must say.  It reminded me of a fabulous day out I had a couple of weeks ago which combined all the best elements of life in England: the countryside, perfect weather and vintage and textile goodies!

I've long been interested in the very English brand, Cabbages and Roses.  The brainchild of one Christina Strutt, they produce beautiful, vintage inspired clothing and homewares.  A new book was recently published, Living Life Beautifully,  which focusses on Christina's life at her infamous home deep in the Somerset countryside, Brook Cottage.  As I had devoured every last word and picture, when I heard that there was to be a brocante in the grounds of her very home, wild horses would not have kept me away.

So it was that rather early one Friday morning, armed with my map, off I set from London for the outskirts of Bath.  It's fair to say Christina's home really is nestled deep deep in the countryside but it was a beautiful day and a pretty idyllic setting.  I am used to country lanes because of our own cottage so did not find it too hairy, though I think a 4x4 would have been advantageous for parking on the field!  All these issues were insignificant as in my sun hat and rose printed frock, I found myself within the heart of the Cabbages and Roses' homeland.  What a glorious sight.

So, let's have a look around, shall we?  A large and rather stylish marquee had been erected on the top lawn.  This held Cabbages and Roses fabrics at much discounted prices (such that there was any left when I arrived an hour after opening time!), ODD rockers (the lady who runs ODD, which sells old-fashioned garden swinging hammocks, was Christina's original business partner in the Cabbages' empire) and various other delightful vintage stalls, including that of Caroline Zoob.

In front of the marquee, as the lawn rolled langorously down to the stream at the very bottom, was a tantalising display of stalls all groaning with vintage goodies.

Right down near Brook Cottage itself, was Christina's infamous gazebo, home to so many photo shoots.  This was where the Cabbages and Roses' clothing sale was taking place.  The clothing is not really what I was there for but I heard reports that it had been something of a bun fight at opening time!

Beyond the gazebo, a few more stalls had been set up around the willow tree and on the stream's edge.  There was a cute little coffee van and a stall serving delicious wraps, their contents cooked on the barbecue (unfortunately, the queues were rather long, I think the attendance at the event was beyond what had been expected).

Now we need to see what was on offer in more detail.  I knew a few of the ladies who had stalls at the event, either from past fairs or through the wonderful world that is Instagram.  So, I was pleased to catch up and the very first stall I came across belonged to Clara and Clare of "Found and Favour" fame.  They always keep me entertained with the gorgeous photos they post on IG.  They offered a lovely mix of enamelware, chippy painted furniture and all the accessories you could need to go with them.

Next door were Chalk and Paisley (new to me) and Emma of Velvet Ribbon, from whom I can never resist buying a few treats.

Chalk and Paisley had some lovely simple cushions and stuffed lavender hearts fashioned from vintage cutter quilts to which I decided to treat myself.  Emma had some gorgeous bundles of vintage fabrics.  One of those might have been popped in the shopping bag, too.

Another stall across the lawn offered a huge variety of gorgeous wool blankets.  I love these, with their beautiful soft stripes and checks, and they do keep you fabulously warm.  My cats absolutely love them (when they are allowed near)!

All around, you were spoiled for choice and all the stallholders had gone to a lot of effort to make sure their displays were eye catching and beautiful.  The setting was rather magical, it has to be said.

More temptations...

Down in the far corner of the garden, nestled high amongst the trees and overlooking the babbling brook, was this rather interesting-looking shed.  Its exterior did not belie the delights inside. 

I am not sure what Christina usually uses this for but it had been transformed into a showcase for maker Gill Fox's hats and vintage floral corsages.  I was rather entranced by the interior.

Hello!  The perfect vantage point to show you my vintage hat on its first outing.

I wandered back up the grassy slope and had to stop to admire Christina's kitchen garden.

One more stroll back through the stalls on my way out; yes, I did need to buy one of those gorgeous Swedish rag rugs.

I loved these cushions too, in my very favourite shades, but I had bought enough for one day.  

Caroline Zoob had some pretty items on her stall including a cute embroidered tea cosy in the form of a cottage.  Hmm, I might have a few of these in my vintage collection already.

Onwards then, through the extremely narrow and windy lanes around Brook Cottage to another decidedly cute cottage in the country, luckily one that we can call our own.

It was a beautiful afternoon and as I walked up the path, I was delighted to see the cottage garden coming into its own.

It was also a welcome delight to step inside those thick old hamstone walls and be enveloped by a delicious coolness.

Ah, it really was the very best sort of weekend.  

Back home in the city the following Monday, the 1940's felt Bambi I had bought from Cowboys and Custard at the brocante, was looking forward to meeting my motley collection of critters in her new home.

I felt fired up to get creating.  Using fabrics from stash, with the addition of some beautiful ones I picked up at the brocante, a spot more bag making went on in advance of my bag making workshop which took place at Tikki Patchwork in Kew yesterday.

This one was going to be a keeper until a lovely lady at the workshop yesterday twisted my arm and took it home with her!  Ah well, I can always make another.  The others will be listed in my Etsy shop shortly so if you are interested, do pop on over.  As they say, once they're gone, they're gone!

I hope you enjoyed reading this little post.  For me, it has been a treat to relive a wonderful time. Xxx

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

A Fabulously Floral Quilt

Hello readers.  Do you have your sunnies on and your feet up in the garden?  Wouldn't that be nice?  I've headed out into the garden and the sunshine today, intent on some long overdue snapping.  The sitting with my feet up and a good book will have to wait until later.

I'm catching up on some crafty makes I want to share with you.  A while back, I idly started a crochet ripple.  It was only a baby one, in fact just destined to be a cushion cover.  The yarns were a mix, a couple of balls of Rowan pure wool worsted (which I hadn't been able to resist buying)and various DKs from the stash (Sirdar and Cygnet amongst others but all wool/wool mix).

It was finished pretty soon, just a half hour in bed with Jacky Ginge in the morning and a sneaky ten minutes here and there.  I didn't want to go to the effort of crocheting a back too and I positively like having the crochet juxtaposed with something different, which in the past has been fabric.  This time, I plumped for a vintage dyed woolly blanket to which I added a gorgeous feedsack trim, a spot of crochet and some pretty vintage buttons.  It was the first time I had used Jenny Janome for buttonholes so back to the manual I went.  She coped admirably with the multiple layers.  Good girl.

This poor cushion has been flung on the chair in my den, I haven't actually decided what to do with it.  But I will find a space, oh yes I will, and for now, it looks pretty happy on the old garden bench.

More making has been taking place, I always have a quilt on the go, really.  This time, I'd received some absolutely divine floral fabrics, mainly from Japan, or America via Japan.  These 1930's inspired fabrics are my weakness, especially those from Lecien and Yuwa. I had in my head that I wanted to combine them with some pretty polka dots and ditsy florals in a haphazard "hopscotch" design.  Much cutting took place...

Before long, I was laying everything out on the makeshift design wall.

You know what comes next...

Shall we have a ta-dah moment?  It's definitely the weather for it?

I have popped it into my Etsy shop where I am hoping someone might find it and give it a lovely new home. 

It's awfully tempting to have a forty winks on the patio but I think that will have to wait for later.  I have other ideas in my head just buzzing to get out.

Enjoy the sunshine.  Xxx