Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Do You Mind if I Knit?

It is with a very heavy heart that I write this post.  Last week, I received some very sad news which knocked me for six, that a special lady and friend of mine tragically had passed away.  I wouldn't normally think to share personal news but the reality is that I know it will touch many of you, too.

Lots of you might instantly have thought of this lady on seeing the title of my blog post.  You will likely have loved the fabulous colourful blog of that name which gave a privileged glimpse into the talented world of Vanessa Cabban.  Vanessa had an immense creative talent; she was known for illustrating children's books for Walker Books which was her day job but we also knew her for her pretty watercolour painting, her stripy knitting and crochet and latterly, her fabulous papier mache creations.

You may or may not recall, depending on how long you have been reading this blog, that she and I used to indulge in an old-fashioned friendship in which we regularly took turns in sending a parcel of goodies and letters to each other.  Vanessa and I shared very similar tastes and had a knack of choosing and making things for the other which we really loved.  It was the best, most indulgent type of swap.  I realise this even more so now.  I still have all the lovely things Vanessa made for me.  From a wire basket she painted in a charming shade of duck egg blue to the stunning multi-coloured diamond-patterned crochet scarf.

Looking back this morning through all the old blog posts I wrote about our exchanges, I realise how many of the things Vanessa gave me surround me in my everyday life.  It's a testament to the things she chose for me, and the thought she put into doing so, that I appreciate them to this day.  It is rare to find a person on a similar wavelength to yourself.

Vanessa's spirit lives on in her colourful creations and mainly, in the inspiration she gave us all.  I remember her for her love of colour and pattern and I only have to look round my own home to see her influence.  

I'm going to indulge myself; every time I have a few quiet moments in the coming days, I'm going to re-read every last bit of her blog and remember the special, talented woman she was.

RIP Vanessa, I hope you are at peace now. Xxx


There are references to Vanessa dotted throughout my blog but if you wish, you can read the original blog posts detailing my friendship with Vanessa and our creations for each other here here here here and here

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas at The Old Vicarage

Well, here we are, another Christmas and it feels quite a momentous one.  This time last year, moving to the West Country was just a pipe dream.  Here we are, we've really made it.  Sometimes, we need to squeeze ourselves to make sure it is real.  It now feels less like a holiday and more like home.

I'd have loved to have brought you a really well planned Christmas post with lots of carefully taken photos of the house and its decorations but I just haven't had the opportunity this year.  I have managed to snatch shots on my 'phone here and there and those, I'm more than happy to share.  We've managed to put up a nice big tree and a little one in the kitchen.  A lot of my time has been spent in here, whether painting the old dresser we bought, baking yummy treats to eat or making hampers as gifts.

Family and friends have been to stay and see our new home, it has been lovely to welcome them; this house has a super, warm feel and is perfect for gatherings.  I've also worked hard on getting a guest room into some sort of order; it needs to be decorated properly, but for now, I've just tried to work my magic with painted thrifty furniture, handmade cushions and pictures, and Mr HenHouse has been my right hand man with his tool bag, making it all happen.

We've managed to get out and about a fair bit, too:  we stayed in Bath one weekend to visit the shops and Christmas Market; the Munchkin's school marked the end of term with a beautiful carol service in the stunning Sherborne Abbey; we've popped out to see some of Somerset's reindeers (though they were tired from pulling the sleigh it seems!); finally, this morning, it was so good to visit Bridport and collect all my Christmas meat and groceries from shops we've grown to know and love.  Nothing beats having a natter with the locals, we're now on first name terms.  I couldn't resist the wonderful vintage Christmas annual from one of the market stalls.  We've topped everything off with a visit to the local church this afternoon for the crib service, well it seemed about time we introduced ourselves as the new custodians of the Old Vicarage!

All that remains is for me to wish you all a truly wonderful Christmas.  Thank you for reading along with me, I hope all your wildest dreams come true.


Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Have Yourself a Quilty Little Christmas

Well, the temptation to try blogging on the new Mac could not be resisted so a bit like buses, here I am again!  I haven't really had a lot of time for crafting since we moved as most of my time has been spent unpacking, getting the guest room ready and just keeping up with all the everyday boring but necessary household chores.  Whilst I haven't managed to make any gifts or the Christmas stockings I desperately wanted to, I did decide I should allow myself to jump on Lori Holt's festive sew-along.

Lori blogs over at Bee in my Bonnet , and over on Instagram, I love following what she gets up to in that gorgeous home of hers (she is beelori1 on IG).  I already owned Lori's fabby book, Quilty Fun, and had used it as the basis for several of the mini quilts over on my chimney breast wall in my Den.  A few weeks ago, Lori announced she was hosting a sew-along.  She would use certain blocks from the book and post new ones on IG as well which would culminate in, well we didn't actually know at the time!  I watched for a few days.  I was hooked.  I was in!

Time to dig out the festive stash...

I had a handful of blocks to catch up on.  Apologies that a lot of the photos are a bit dark but I generally find time to sew late afternoon and early evening and of course, the daylight hours are so short these days.

First up, a cute gingerbread house based on a block in Quilty Fun.  Couldn't resist swapping out one of the chimneys for Father Christmas, ready to deliver presents to good girls (like myself)!  There's a wreath on the door and a pair of robins in the windows.  I love a bit of fussy cutting.

Did you spot the little board that the block is resting on?  You'll see them throughout this post in varying sizes.  There is great tutorial on Lori's blog for making these boards.  They are easy and so handy to keep all the pieces for your blocks together when ferrying between machine, ironing board and so on.  I made quite a few, they were addictive once I got going and only use batting remnants, leftover ends of quilt binding and I found the foam core board on special at Hobbycraft (two big sheets for £7).

My blocks grew as I tried to fit one in every other day or so.  There's was a cute cocoa mug and my fave, the mittens, to which I gave a sort of Nordic Fair Isle touch.

Next up, a little basket, to hold Christmas gifts maybe, this one with an appliqu├ęd heart.

Before long, my selection of blocks was growing.  The most exciting bit was waiting with baited breath for Lori to post the next set of instructions on IG.  Would it be something from the book or a new block?  After a while, it was time to sew a little group together. Looked like we were making a sort of smallish quilt, wall hanging maybe. (That's my biggest foam core board down there.)

On again, this time with a cute trio of wreaths complete with red bows.  I will only sew on the red bows at the end, once the quilting has been done.

A festive trip to the Bath Christmas Market also saw me visiting a new-to-me patchwork shop where I couldn't help adding a few fat quarters to my stash.

I was therefore delighted when we were instructed to make a traditional log cabin block and could fussy cut my new Father Christmas fabric for the centre.  Ho ho ho!

Really loved making the stocking too;  I added a "Merry Christmas" label and the stocking has its own little loop to hang.  That's a sweet next to it.

A final catch-up and the main section of the patchwork top was complete.  I felt a little sad!  Charlie Boy seemed interested.

Lori then suggested we make pieced borders for the quilt using instructions for one of the quilts (which happened to be the same size)  in her book. I was torn whether to just go for simple one-fabric borders so that I could get the quilt done but I decided it didn't matter if it was not finished for Christmas and I would make the pieced borders instead.   A lot of cutting ensued and a fair few hours at Sally Singer.

Lots and lots of squares had to be sewn together.  Like this, I thought it would have made a very nice fabric alternative to paper chains!

Phew!  This border business is hard work!  Well, a girl has to keep her strength up.

This morning, I've snatched an hour in between the ironing to get one side border pieced and sewn on.  Just three more to go!  Hopefully I will be able to show it to you before too long...


By the way, should you wish to join in, English peeps can now buy Quilty Fun via Kaleidoscope books online and for the other blocks, you will need access to IG (Instagram).  You can do this via a PC or tablet, you do not have to have a smart phone.

Monday, 22 December 2014

A Crafty Space

Hello dear readers and how are you this fine Monday in December? I hope you are still popping in here as I know I have neglected my poor blog recently. Just in case you've forgotten, hello, here I am!

Life continues to be very good if hectic here in the West Country.  However, I am feeling a lot more settled now I have unpacked some of those many many boxes and in particular, those for my Den.  Mr HenHouse has been a love and got busy with his screwdriver and voila, I found I had a whole load of white shelves to fill in my new Den.   

Well that was no chore, of course!

Hello stash.

I am lucky, this is a lovely big room and whilst it is only my Den in the interim and will revert to a guest bedroom eventually (we have plans to create a real studio!) and it is a bit impractical having carpet, it has made it lovely and cosy this Winter.  Being situated right next to the master bedroom, I am never far from my stash!  I have a pretty fireplace, just about every room in our new home has one including the bathroom, and I have created a cosy seating area where it's nice to sit down for an inspiring read or a bit of hand sewing when I can find the time.  That's not very often these days!  I did find time to hang and even make some mini quilts for the chimney breast which jollies the place up no end.

Best of all, I have two very big windows in this room.  It's one of the things we loved about this house, all the huge Victorian windows flooding the place with light, something we had become used to in the old HenHouse.  Here, though I am further spoiled in that I have really fabulous views.  One over the lawn to the East and the rising sun...

...the other, as far as the eye can see and it's a mighty long way on a fine day.  A tad distracting!  I have a new (old) pine table set up here and not one but three machines arranged around it.  It's a dreamy sewing space.

I have added to my beloved black Singer featherweight which was my birthday gift this year, with a white one too.  The white ones were more modern, 1960s, and I do prefer the black one to sew on but this has the advantage of having a white machine bed so I can see the markings on my "Slider 2" (this clear acetate square affixes to the machine bed and has 1/4" and other seam lines marked on it and allows for easy peasy piecing of half-square triangles).

Elsewhere, I have lots of wall space for hanging both crafty essentials and more decorative bits and bobs.  I have been able to unpack a lot of my vintage collection.

I'm going to leave it at that today, it takes me an age to blog now that we do not have super-whizzy fibre optic internet like we had in London!  I have been treated to a new computer recently so I am hoping when I find time to set it up later today, that may help.  Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed the little tour of my creative space and I'm going to share some Christmassy crafting with you very soon.


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