Friday, 18 December 2015

A Festive Flurry 

Hello readers and thank you for receiving my last post so enthusiastically.  I'm here again already!

So the boxes are down from the loft and the decorations are finding their way around the house.  There's a smattering here in the Den, in appropriate colours, of course.

I've still found the odd hour here and there to spend in my Den.  A little peg doll fairy has appeared (though I don't think I'm going to get many/any more done now!)

It's a busy time of year for us all, isn't it?  The problem, is I don't seem to have many helpers.  Just ones who sleep on the job.

There seems to be a lot planned between now and the big day, just one week to go!  We already have had a few events going on.  The Master finished school a week ago and we enjoyed a lovely carol concert in Sherborne Abbey and a more intimate and cute Christingle service in the village where the youngest visitor was just nine weeks old and the oldest...well I wouldn't say.

There's something lovely about being out and about at dusk at this time of year.  The best bit is coming home, of course.

I am still waiting on my dream kitchen which I thought would have been here by now but never mind, that gives us something to look forward to in the New Year and for now, we're good and cosy indoors.

In the evenings in front of the fire, there's been a little hand stitching going on.

As promised, a final stocking has squeezed out of the Den just in time.

If you have been a good girl or boy and need a stocking to hang by the fireside for Father Christmas to fill on Christmas night, you've still got time and shall find this one magically waiting in my Etsy shop!

I hope to be back and see you all again before the big day and show you the festive HenHouse.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

It's beginning to look a lot like...

Oh my, where has the time flown?  It's really December already?  Yes, it is!  We've begun to get into the swing of things round here.  Last year, having moved house a couple of months before Christmas, everything seemed a bit last minute so this year, we have got into the festive spirit a bit early.  Furry Frank has joined in with his marabou stole, ooh la la!

We went out for the tree at the first available opportunity and found a new Christmas tree "farm" nearby where we were spoiled for choice.  I always go for the biggest I can find!

With the change of the seasons, Mr HenHouse and I have managed more days out as in the Summer, we seem to be busy outdoors in the garden all the time.  Everywhere is awash with fallen leaves, that's life in the country for you (along with copious spiders) but it has still been very mild and looking quite pretty.  We've finished our decorating work indoors for this year (we'll be back at it in January), so we've taken the chance to catch up and have a few days out.  

We always enjoy a trip to the fairs at Shepton Mallet and in the Winter, it can be less busy which is always a bonus for us (not so for the stall holders, I expect).  We've picked up some lovely items, I never come away empty handed!

Finally, I have found more time to spend in my Den and a lot more craftiness has been going on which always makes me happy (if tired!)  First up was a project I'd been meaning to get round to for a few years.  Out came the vintage quilt pieces and bundles of the prettiest vintage fabrics.  It was time for some soothing hand paper piecing on a small scale.

I think I have been inspired by all things sparkly in the run up to the festive season and I have been hoarding gorgeous vintage and antique lace, trimmings and all sorts of pretty bits and pieces.  I decided I had to sort out my collection of vintage lace and that took a fair few hours, I can tell you.

More sorting out came along when I found some dinky little printer's trays on Bridport market, just perfect for what I term my "fripperies".  I am quite the magpie, it seems.

I have a furry helper who had taken a shine to a certain vintage quilt on top of my rack of wools in the Den.  There you are, Mr Peach, hiding behind the marabou trims!

After hiding away in my Den for the best part of a week, I began to see the fruits of my labours.  A fairy doll head adorned with feathers and a vintage frippery (there's that word again), protecting her modesty under layers of gorgeous vintage lace...

Can you guess what this little number is?  A pretty confection of old rose paisley quilt, vintage lace and that EPP I was enjoying each evening in front of the fire...

Talking of fires, we had a little move round in the sitting room to get the tree in and we're quite happy with the result.  Just in case you were wondering where he is, Charlie Boy is never far from the warmth of the roaring logs.

Upstairs, some finished goodies had emerged from the Den.  Pretty patchwork stockings waiting for Santa to fill on Christmas eve...

Cute-as-a-button fairy dolls all entirely handmade and handpainted by yours truly and making use of that hoarded collection of vintage pretties.

Meet Lily, named after the sprig of vintage lily of the valley flowers at the waist of her stunning lace skirt.

Silver is a bit of a favourite of mine, if that is allowed...

I didn't get a chance to name this little lady before she flew off to fill a lucky lady's stocking on Christmas Day this year...

I'm pleased to say that I've finally been able to put some new items into my little Etsy shop, so should you have been a very good girl or boy this year and fancy nipping over, you will as always, be most welcome there.  (The stockings have already sold but I am working on a couple more at the moment which will be in my shop as soon as my little hands can get them there!)

P.S.  A big thank you to those of you who sent me a little prompt to write another post.  It's obviously just what I needed! X

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Furry Friends

It's been too long, reader and there's so much to catch up on so without further ado...

I don't think there can be anything more important than introducing you to the new members of the family.  As you know, we are pretty potty about furry friends around here.  Our beloved Charlie Boy is still going strong at eighteen and a half years old.

There has definitely been a void in the HenHouse though, since Jacky Ginge and Vorey died last year.  We always said we would not get new, younger cats while Charlie was still with us as we didn't think he would like it or it would be fair on him.  We'd had a year however, for Charlie Boy to settle in here in his new home and to observe how he was getting on.  As you might expect of such a senior citizen, he is very much set in his ways.  He goes outside a little bit but he is otherwise very happy sleeping on the sofa and getting up for the occasional munch.  He's a very laid back cat and of all our boys, he was always the boss, albeit in a non-confrontational way.  We got to thinking that we really missed having some more company around the house, poor Charlie boy had to put up with the attentions of all three of us, after all.  We thought that he maybe might not mind a bit of company after all.

So there we were one Tuesday morning, late in the Summer holidays and I tentatively voiced that maybe we could consider some new furry friends to add to the household which met with enthusiasm from Mr HenHouse.  The Master in particular had really missed Jacky Ginge and we felt it would be nice for him to have more company.  We had a look at a few of our local animal shelters online as we were mindful that we would need to find a new kitty who was likely to get on with Charlie Boy, he was our top priority, of course.  We decided a kitten might be too much for him and we liked the idea of rehoming an older friend.

Two days later, we found ourselves at Little Valley Animal Shelter in Exeter.  Predictably, the Master was very excited at the thought of a new furry friend and we all fell in love with one chubby little chap who immediately seemed friendly and to take to the Master in particular.

What do you know, furry face there had a friend.

We decided this was perfect.  We would rehome both kittys, they had lived together and were friends, after all, so it was only right they stay together.  They were both gorgeous little characters though our little ginger friend was a little shyer than his mate.  Home we went, excited and eagerly waiting to hear from the RSPCA as they carry out a home check before rehoming any animals.  We live quite a distance from their shelter so we thought it might take a while for them to visit us.  The Master was very impatient to get the new boys home before he went back to school at the beginning of September.

In the end, it all happened very quickly, they were very professional and organised at Little Valley and before we knew it, on the Saturday morning we had a call; when would we like to collect our new friends?  One visit to the pet shop and a speedy trip to Exeter later and our little furry dream had come true!

We had to keep the new boys confined to one room for a few days whilst they got used to their new home and before they met their big ginger brother.  Let me please introduce you to Oscar, our peachy coloured boy cat who is probably around three years old.

His brother (non-related) is the rather cuddly and very placid Frank, around six years old.  Purr!

Well, they started to settle in no problem.  We had forgotten what it was like to have young cats in the household.  Oscar in particular, has been very active.  He was soon jumping up on every surface so I had to get out some cardboard boxes and pack my ornaments away!

After a few days, we introduced Charlie Boy and the new boys.  They were a little wary at first but we were pleased that the new boys were not at all confrontational and have respected Charlie Boy's position as head honcho of the furry brethren.  We are lucky in that there is plenty of space here at the HenHouse, both inside and out, and they can all find their own space and do their own thing.  They get on fine though and there's the occasional hiss but all is much better than we might have dreamed.

Oscar, as I say, is a very agile cat and wasted no time in exploring every inch of the house.  He is quite fond of my Den, obviously a very discerning feline, and here he is, checking out the stash!

Frank has a very laid back approach to life.  He is really not that bothered about going outside and is very fond of his home comforts.  He soon found the best seat in the house.

They've settled in really well, having been home about eight weeks now.  Oscar has discovered that he is very fond of eidys.

We had to keep the boys in for the first four weeks so they could get used to their new home.  They actually did not seem to mind this too much until the end when Oscar was quite keen to get out and explore.  There was a lot of impatient sitting on windowsills!

Frank's favourite spot is on my chair next to the woodburner in the kitchen.

They remain good friends and Oscar is often to be found cuddling up next to Frank for a bit of extra warmth.

Frank and the Master have formed a close bond so we are really happy to see the void left by Jacky Ginge has been filled as we hoped.  Here is Furry Frank waiting to wish the Master a happy birthday recently!

Oscar also seems happy in his new home, he is a little more independent than Frank and likes to go out and explore but he's a really good cat and also rather special. We don't really know much of the new cats' history but Oscar has amazing fur, it is so so soft like a rabbit, and we have taken to nicknaming him Peach, both for the colour and softness of his incredible coat.

Charlie Boy?  He is as adorable as ever.  Such a good boy, always his mummy's darling and the best cat you could ever wish for.  As you can see, he's getting along just fine.

All is well once more in the HenHouse. Xxx

Monday, 7 September 2015

Farm Girl Vintage

Reader, a new obsession has gripped me of late.  I decided it was time to get myself back in the Den and get down to some sewing.  A new book had me all of a tizz, that book is Farm Girl Vintage by Lori Holt.

I've long been a fan of Lori and her blog Bee in my Bonnet.  I have made some of the blocks in her fabby book Quilty Fun which are now mini quilts on the wall in my Den.  I also took part in her sewalong last Christmas and enjoyed it very much.  I was therefore very very happy to get my mitts on Farm Girl Vintage which looked, if possible, even better!

A little like the Christmas sewalong and Quilty Fun, the idea with the new book is that there are lots of individual blocks and these can then be made into a variety of quilts, the settings for which Lori helps you with, or you can make smaller projects such as pot holders or table runners.

This appealed to me enormously as I have found myself with not much time to sew in recent months so the idea that I could just fit in making the odd block for an hour here or there seemed a winner.  At least that was the theory.

As you can see from these images, it's a really beautiful book to look at.  I never tire of looking through it and it is often to be found beside my bed of a night for a little pre-sleep inspiration so I wake up all fired up the next morning.  Lori has a gorgeous home which is really individual to her and provides the perfect backdrop for the shots of her blocks and quilts.  Drool-worthy stuff!

It has been great fun and very inspiring to follow the farmgirlvintage hashtag over on Instagram.  It feels like one big farm girl vintage obsessed sewing family!

I wanted to use similar fabrics to Lori, bright happy colours with a vintage feel, modern fabrics in a retro style.  It looked like the stash could handle it.

However, at the annual Festival of Quilts, a little farm girl vintage inspired shopping may have taken place.

It is a very practical book as it is spiral bound so it is easy to turn to the page you need and not wrestle with the spine.  The format is that the first major chunk of the book is devoted to the individual blocks followed by the various quilt settings and projects.

The style of the blocks varies.  On the one hand, there are what  I would term traditional patchwork blocks such as stars, squares, churn dash, flying geese (above) and so on.  These have afforded me some good opportunities for fussy cutting to which I am always partial.  

(The fussy cut centres are from a single fabric by Kokka.)

Then there are the more pictorial style blocks.  These are cute and fun!  

I love them all!  I try to intersperse making the traditional blocks with the pictorial ones to keep things a little varied.

The blocks are a good test of your patch working skills.  There is quite a bit of cutting for each block.  The best bit is choosing all those fabrics, of course.  So from this many pieces... might end up with a cute chick.

The traditional blocks in particular often look deceptively simple however they have lots of little pieces and many points to match which you can easily sew over or chop off if your cutting and stitching is not millimetre perfect.  It's really satisfying to get them right, even it it does involve the seam ripper on occasion.  

Take this gingham block below, made up entirely of squares, thirty-six of them to be precise.  Not so hard you might think.  

Aside from choosing your fabrics carefully to balance the lights and darks and achieve the contrast this block needs, did you realise it is just six and a half inches square when finished?  Working on that scale is tricky because there is very little room for error.  The book gives you the option of making six or twelve inch finished blocks (giving you the cutting requirements for each).  I fancied working small as I love the fiddliness of it and I have enjoyed the challenge of trying to get it as perfect as I can, that to me is the beauty of working on just one block at a time.  It's an exercise in patience though!

I've really enjoyed getting into the spirit of farm girl vintage.  Being a country bumpkin now, I seem to be surrounded by the perfect inspiration.  From our fluffy chooks I can see from the window of my Den, to the cherries we've picked in the garden, to the fabulous vintage farm tractors at the Great Dorset Steam Fair last Friday.

How I would love that tractor for a little photoshoot once my quilt is finished!  I have enjoyed trying to think of different ways to snap my finished blocks which I've been posting on Instagram along with all the other farm girl sewers.  Each time we post a block, we hashtag it with the name of the block so it's great to be able to search and see everyone else's blocks.

Lori's Instagram feed (where she is beelori1) is incredibly inspiring.  She has posted lots of updates including sharing with us what has been happening on the sewing retreats she has been running over in the States.  At these retreats, she has released a couple of new patterns and also shown us variations on some of the existing blocks in the book.  There are several PDF patterns which link in with the book over at Fat Quarter Shop.  I have made this cute pig and I think the apple will follow soon.

Lori has also created Farm Girl Fridays over on her blog where she posts something new on the topic, you guessed it, every Friday.  She talks through the process of making one or more blocks and suggests some fun variations.  She also links to various other bloggers who are sewing along with Farm Girl Vintage.

My aim is to make the Farm Girl Sampler Quilt from the book.  This will have forty-eight different blocks (all those in the book plus a few of the PDFs) along with sashing and borders to make a finished quilt 62.5" x 76.5".  I have now made over half the blocks so I need to keep trying to fit in a few when I can and get them finished, hopefully this year!

I'm loving it!