Monday, 1 September 2014

And They Call it Cushion Love

Hello folks.  Happy September!  It's been a long time since I've managed to drop by my blog but it has been a very busy Summer for us all.  I hope you've all had many fun times.  The Munchkin is back at school today and so here I am, back at my table in the Den and ready to share some of the Summer's adventures.

The days have definitely turned Autumnal already.  It feels too soon for me, dedicated lover of Spring and Summer that I am, but the imminence of a new season always brings with it a hint of excitement, I think.  Luckily, the descent from Summer is eased by the re-apperance of some of my beloved roses.  Scented and blowsy with their many petals, these are all David Austin varieties I have planted in the garden here (I think I had seventeen types at last count).  This final flush always seems so precious.



I've been able to spend quite a bit of time crafting outside.   It always forces me to sit awhile, enjoy some peace and quiet (neighbours permitting!) and indulge in some hand work.  I've become a little bit in love with yet another raft of vintage fabrics recently.  A little different from my first loves, those fabulous florals of the forties, these are of a more delicate and faded nature.  Yes, they might well be flowery (old loves die hard) but they might also include ticking and gingham.  They might well be French but there will be some soft English eiderdown fabrics in there too.  Delicious!



Hexys were my starting point.  I always love doing these, it's such a portable hobby, easy to pick up and put down, never an excuse not to have a bit of craftiness with you.  



I've taken it about here and there.  It went to Birmingham for the Festival of Quilts and of course, it went to Crafty Wednesday at Stag and Bow.  I have now finished two panels which are going to be the fronts of cushion covers.  I have a special spot in mind for them.  All shall be revealed in good time!  I am now missing this hand sewing project (though I have many more, it's true), maybe a larger piece is in the offing.



There have been lots of lovely outings over the Summer, of course. The other weekend, the Munchkin had gone off to Scout camp so the Mr and I found ourselves heading for an old favourite haunt in Sussex: Lewes.  It is a town which has everything really.  Lovely old buildings, fabulous foodie places to eat and lots of moochy vintage and antiques shops (not to mention a fabric and patchworking supplies shop).  It's not as good as Bridders but it's up there!



We parked up and strolled through the charity shop nearby, a little hidden and tucked away behind the main street.  We were lucky to strike gold right away.  From my childhood, I remember my paternal grandfather's house in the Cheshire countryside, it was a cottage in a converted old stables.  His wife had great taste and the interior was dreamy; I can see it in detail to this day (though he, and indeed she,  died long since and I haven't visited for a long while).  They had a beautiful antique full size dappled rocking horse on the landing.  I loved it and always coveted it (sadly not to be).  There's just something about rocking horses.  So I could not resist bringing this little old fellow home.  I love his faded paint, his soft woodwork, worn with the little hands and feet of many generations.  He is of course, dappled, too.

He won't stay here in front of the fireplace but until the fire is lit, that's where Dobbin is resting for now.



So, stitchy stuff.  Oh, there's been a fair bit of stitchy stuff going on here, it has to be said.  At this year's Festival of Quilts last month, (another post to be caught up on there), I treated myself to a book I'd been after for a while from the stand of Cowslip Workshops.  I had met the book's writer, and indeed owner of Cowslip Workshops, on previous occasions and so I came home with a bundle of fabrics and Jo Colwill's book "Cushions and Quilts".  

There was a particular project I'd wanted to do since seeing her book at the festival the year before.  Let's get to it, then.  I patchworked the front following the digram in the book, though I used my own fabrics and in the end, I used vintage fabrics from my stash rather than new ones (except the linen edging).



I had more work to do to the front, somewhat more tricky, which involved appliqueing some flowers then free motion quilting them.  It was the first time I had used Jenny Janome for FMQ but she coped really well and I was pleased with the outcome.  I then set about some hand embroidery but I was a little hampered by the Furry Inspector's need to sleep on the job!



Before long though, I had brought the various pieces together, including the unusual fastening, and it was finished.









My appetite well and duly whetted, there was a second project I was just dying to get my teeth into.  It was the cushion on the cover, a yummy mix of ticking squares and appliqued hearts.



The background was easy enough, just a matter of cutting those squares with the lines of the ticking straight, piecing them together and bordering with linen.  I managed to scrounge sixteen different ticking squares from stash.



Then it got a little more tricky.  Oh yes, I had fun choosing the vintage fabrics for the hearts but then it was time to applique them. Fiddly little...  I've done applique successfully before but the method suggested in the back of the book was very different and being a good girl who always does the right thing, I decided I should give it a go.  You never know what you might learn and all that.   Oh my.  Much as I love the finished look of this cushion, I did not get on with the applique method.  I felt it was unnecessarily hard and fussy and there are easier ways to get a more perfect finish.  Each to their own of course, but I'll be sticking to my own way with a bit of freezer paper.



Soon, it became a little more restful.  Time for feet up in front of the box and a spot of hand quilting.



These projects seem to have gone very well with the time of year, I think.  Along with the soft faded stitchy stuff in the sitting room, the kitchen has been filled with delicious smells from stewing apples (we are completely inundated with apples in the garden this year) along with wild blackberries made into a crumble.  I used up some leftover roasted rib of beef in a beef and ale pie with a puff pastry topping.  Oh my.  Heavenly.  Comfort food at its very best.




Before long, cushion number two was completed.  I mourned having finished it (not the applique, ha ha!)



The other Friday, that being ta-dah day, we were blessed with some gorgeous late afternoon sunshine so out into the garden I headed, under the boughs of the old apple tree.



The cushion has a more unusual welted design which was not difficult, if a little fiddly.  I used a contrasting pink gingham heavy cotton fabric for the side panels.  I also inserted a zip into the bottom edge for ease of laundering.  I love the look of the "pie crust" edging, again not hard but time consuming.  That's alright though, isn't it?  It's good to take a little time over things.



I love, love, love these cushions!



To top off a perfectly productive week, Mr HenHouse appeared home from work and just happened to have found a bottle of something interesting in the fridge!  



Chin, chin. Xxx

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Fabric... and French or maybe Fondant Fancies

Fabric.  Let's talk fabric.  I rather like it but then you know that already.  I think my first love will always be the fabulous florals of the 1940s and thereabouts.  I also like the modern reproductions of those cute fabrics of the 1930s and '40s and I am partial to some full on 1950's blowsy roses.  More recently, I've found I also have an appreciation for fabrics of a more faded and gentle nature.  I had a few here in my Den and I rooted for some more at the outdoor fair the other week.  I was submerged in "the look", being decidedly French, faded and floral I'd suggest, when I went to the Cabbages and Roses brocante  a few weeks ago so I think it's all just an inevitable snowball of influences.

Order book cleared and "time for a rest" declared,  I have found myself spending a little bit of time in the garden, when the sunshine has permitted it.  I was accompanied by some delicious fudge and some delicious French scraps.  Oooh fancy!  (I had an aunt whose favourite declaration that once was.)



When I just have to be doing something with my hands (not popping piece after piece of sea salted caramel fudge in my chops), a little project like these raggy brooches fits the bill.



Whilst I'm idly selecting scraps from my comfy garden sofa, I can look right to the bottom of the garden where the roses are gaily blooming away with wild abandon.  That's my absolute favourite at the front: Jubilee Celebration by David Austin.



If I'm lucky and Mr HenHouse is at home, he might join me and play some of our growing collection of Glenn MIller 78s on the wartime gramophone.



I inevitably have company of the furry kind, too.



Talking of France and all things French, the Munchkin was away on a school trip to the very same place last week and finding ourselves child-free, the Mr and I decided to hop over ourselves and collect our wine which had been trucked up to Calais from Bordeaux.  It was an utterly glorious day for crossing La Manche.



We made the obligatory stop at the hypermarket where we ended up with yet more wine, fizzy this time, and all manner of weird and wonderful goodies.  Violet liqueur anyone?



Back at the ranch, it was time to get sampling and make the most of these light evenings.  Love it when good fizz is so cheap you don't have to save it just for high days and holidays.



All this Frenchy business got me thinking and I decided to retrieve and sort out my rather meagre collection of old (mainly) French fabrics.  Well, it's meagre in comparison with everything else.



I was in need of a new bag for Summer.  Something pretty to accompany me on my trips.  It didn't take long for a spot of patchworky magic to take place.




The very next day, the bag and I went on a little pilgrimage.  Hopping off at Sloan Square tube station, I strolled up Chelsea's Kings Road and found a little side street I must have passed many times,  by the name of Sydney.  There I found my destination.



For those of you who want to know, it's two little shops joined together side by side.  One has clothing (not really my bag), the other has homewares.  Oh yes.  It is very beautifully arranged, I found myself wishing it was bigger.






I walked round many times, taking it all in and seeing all the fabrics in the flesh.  A little disappointingly, you cannot buy any fabrics  there and then, they are all kept in the warehouse and have to be ordered.  I guess that saved me a few (a lot) of pennies and I came away happy with a hyacinth candle and some fabric samples for me to make my choices.






The bag enjoyed its trip (but oh!  I lost that beautiful vintage brooch).  Full of inspiration, I didn't need to be asked twice to get sewing.



Bags, bags, bags.  Well, ok, four of them to be precise.  Red themed French Fancy ones.  Oooh, I like them.






Pinky pastel, Fondant Fancy ones.  Hmm, maybe I like those more?








I can't get enough bag making at the moment!  I have quite an enviable collection of bags I think, but then when you make them yourself, there's nothing stopping you.  Good job my taste doesn't run to the Mulberry!



I've also finished some raggy brooches.




Thanks for reading. Xxx

P.S.  Yes, a couple of bags, along with some raggy brooches, currently remain in my Etsy shop here.

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