Friday 30 November 2007

Drawing Inspiration

My youngest daughter won a huge tin of coloured pencils as an art prize at school this week. She is hugely proud of them and has been rearranging them in their tin ever since. They certainly add a burst of colour to a very grey week. I am very proud of her and very pleased that her enthusiasm for art was picked up on. When I was at primary school I use to love the trays of coloured pencils coming out for us to use and would spend an age just staring at the colours before choosing. I remember vividly the two that were my favourites - a soft lilac and an aqua green that I used as often as possible and I think even as a teenager remembering colouring in a diagram in biology in those colours too! Unfortunately my enthusiasm for colour has not improved my drawing skills. I did well at school when we had art exams, copying flowers etc but to this day am unable to draw people! I have nothing but complete admiration for people who can and am awestruck by how easy they make it look.

I started shopping for gifts this week and made a very hasty retreat after a trip to the local shopping centre which was heaving! Sitting in the comfort of my home with the computer in front of me with Etsy and other bloggers to feed my Christmas pressie buying habit, I don't think I'll be venturing out much again. If, like me, you love buying prints, you might like to visit the creator of this print - Belle and Boo. I know most of you know her already - but if not, go visit her Etsy shop in time for Christmas. I wish I could draw like that!

This print, Tree Hugger, captures beautifully just everything I would like to portray about my oldest daughter. She has it hanging above her bed and loves it.

This print, Patience Brown, reminds me of my youngest and is adorable. We've bought lots of pressies from her and I visit her site with trepidation as I'm always enchanted by whatever she produces. Go and have a look, it might make you need one less trip into town ...

The other week, Lynda, very kindly nominated me for a Friendly Site Award. Thank you Lynda! Lynda lives in Canada and has just opened an Etsy shop too if you haven't visited her before. You probably know by now just how impossible it would be for me to choose just one, two or even three of you to pass it on to. I am surprised daily by the warmth and friendliness of all of you and to choose would just be too hard. Instead perhaps we could all try to visit a blog we haven't visited before and make some new friends along the way (it beats Christmas shopping hands down!).

I'm sorry If I haven't been round to visit much recently - I will try and catch up, I can't believe it's December tomorrow!
Have a good weekend.

Monday 26 November 2007

Cheat's Advent

When we moved into this house a couple of years ago we decided to have the kitchen refitted and a chimney breast removed. It was one of those things that just went on and on, work began at the end of October and correct and complete kitchen units delivered and fitted three days before Christmas! In the midst of all this dust, noise, chaos and piles of boxes containing all our treasures I had an urge to make the girls advent calendars! With no idea where my sewing box was hiding and entry into most of the downstairs rooms very restricted I knew it had to be something, quick, easy and relatively simple to make.

We had managed to get the girls' bedrooms in some kind of order and had found their noticeboards so at least big sister had somewhere to put her new school timetable. Little sister quickly filled her noticeboard and loved changing the additions daily. Both girls seem to love getting mail and I struck upon the idea of combining the two - little envelopes on pinboards, filled with hidden mysteries.

Easy peasy - no sewing involved and I've just numbered some new envelopes for this year. Back any pinboard you have with fabric, (glue or staples will do), You can add a trim around the edges too if you're into trimmings. 25 little envelopes, each with a number on, pinned onto the board and perhaps a named label too. That's it - no sewing, no mess and most of the things can be bought at the post office or stationer's shop. If you've been blessed with dodgy handwriting like me you could even print on the numbers, I found this vintage printing kit for M in a junk shop when we lived in London. It was one of the first things I bought him and I love the lettering.
It is of course up to you what you fill the envelopes with, chocolates, gifts, little messages, Christmas jokes, sequins, handwritten letters, photos ... They can be hung on the wall, propped on a shelf, fireplace or on the hall table.

I have seen some beautiful stitched advent calendars in blogland and this is of course a poor man's equivalent, but if you're up against it time wise (and maybe with a poorly child at home from school like I have today - yes, the dreaded lurgy has struck), than you could have a go. Maybe a kind of Nigella express of advents - if only I had a vat of that butterscotch sauce lurking in the fridge too!

Friday 23 November 2007

Weekend whimsy

Ever since I was a little girl I have found it very hard to imagine that the weather anywhere else in the world could be different to ours. Whilst we were suffering grey, dreary interminable winters it was very difficult to picture people on the other side of the world basking in golden, unbroken sunshine. The other day a comment left by Louise on my post reminded me of this. Whilst we'd been holed up because of the rain, she'd written that her family had been doing much the same, but taking refuge from the heat and sun rather than the cold wintry storms.

Another Louise has been sharing her beautiful, atmospheric seaside photos with us. I love windswept, deserted beaches in the winter almost as much as when they are sun drenched in the summer. Living on the coast I think I prefer visiting ours in the winter, when the crowds have gone and the wind has picked up and you can really hear the waves crashing along the shore. M and I used to walk down to the beach every Christmas Day before we had children, it was exhilarating and romantic. Summers at home find us driving a little further along the coast to more deserted, quieter spots to enjoy.
Inspired by the two Louises I had a rummage in my evergrowing vintage postcard collection and found some images to share.

This is a Victorian postcard showing one of our favourite beaches in France, a solitary figure walks along the beaches, shielded from the sun by her parasol.

I wonder what she would have made of this little creature?! Same beach, same spot, a century apart. A solitary figure taking her first very tentative steps on soft, silky, sinking sand. This is little sister when she was just a year old.

It took a while for her to get the hang of the feel of the sand on her feet and she would just drop down in a puddle of seawater, jump up and resume walking, her nappy getting heavier and droopier with every little sitdown!

Another bundle here of Nice 1923, looking nothing like I remember it! Sidmouth in Devon and another one of our favourite beaches - Blackpool Sands in South Devon. We use to go there a lot for summer holidays when Big Sister was a toddler. Come rain (usually rain) or shine we would be down on that beach playing. Lovely, lovely memories.
I have also been keeping some vintage linen that had some lovely seaside images on it. I decided this week to put the two together. Lavender sachets made from the seaside fabric coupled with some of the postcards - little bundles of seaside nostalgia in my Etsy shop.

I hope you all have a great weekend, whatever the weather (Now I think I'm sounding a bit like Gardener's World!). Bye

Monday 19 November 2007

Let's just stay in

It was only while eating dinner last night that we realised that the youngest hadn't been outside at all this weekend. Not that any of us had braved the weather for any length of time. M took the car to the garage on Saturday and collected a curry with the oldest in the evening and I did a supermarket run yesterday. That's it, the sum total of fresh air intake in 48 hours! Most of the time was spent in front of the fire and I have to say it was lovely.

Having just written a post about how much I love the sunshine it does seem strange to be now admitting that I quite like wet weekends. It's not that I want it to happen every weekend or that I want arrangements to be cancelled or anybody's fun to be spoilt. It's just that now and again, when there's nothing planned, there's nothing better than being holed up at home and doing nothing. ( I use to love rainy days off school when I was little, I remember the smell of my mum's cooking and how cosy it always felt, no matter how poorly I was). The winter is the time when my home really feels like home, when there is no inner imperative to be outside making the most of the sunshine, when there is no pressure to keep up with the gardening. It's a time to enjoy my home, enjoy the sanctuary that it offers, the warmth and security that the children love and that lovely feeling of shutting the door behind you, knowing that there really is no reason to go anywhere in particular for a couple of days.

This of course doesn't always work. Two daughters in self-imposed confinement can be a recipe for disaster. But, thankfully, this weekend, was different. Big sister was feeling particularly benevolent and spent the most of Saturday indulging her younger sister's whims to play with her. Little sister spent most of Saturday afternoon teaching M to salsa (no mean feat) and to show off her newly acquired salsa skills. If only we had CCTV installed, this was a lesson guaranteed to brighten up anyone's grey Monday. I haven't laughed like that for a long while ...

So lots of hotties, eiderdowns and card playing this weekend. M got a chance to listen to his records and I got a chance to do some crafting (extremely rare at the weekend).

This little hamper shows the growing array of goods now in my Etsy shop. Lavender sachets made from my bumper lavender harvest this summer and some of my fabric stash. I also had time to make a set of 4 smaller pompoms in lovely bright colours. They would be great as Christmas decorations, hung from a window, tree or drawer - perhaps added to some gift wrapping to add that extra bit of fun! They're all made from recycled fabrics too.

One of the best things about this grotty weather is that you no longer need any kind of excuse for this. Eating chocolate, drinking chocolate (can you see that little cube of chocolate in cellophane? - solid drinking chocolate) - perfect stocking filler!

Now there's no reason not to be able to bathe in it. I've never seen four people so eager to have a bath before (oh and it's organic so it must be good for you!). Of course when the weather get's really bad then eating and drinking chocolate whilst bathing in it is definitely called for!

Friday 16 November 2007

Bring me sunshine

The weather here has been just lovely the past couple of days and boy does it make a difference to the way I feel! Beautiful crisp days and mornings where the walk to school is exhilarating and the cars are still dusted with frost. It's the light, the low lying sunshine that makes driving so difficult but being outside so wonderful. Even yesterday when I was trundling round town with a very long and boring shopping list I found myself with a smile across my face (even beaming). Where once in my life BB (before blogging) I might not even have noticed this, yesterday I acknowledged it and smiled even the more. Perhaps I looked like some raving lunatic, mindlessly grinning my way round town, maybe that's what life WB (when blogging) does to you!

The sun has been pouring in through the windows at home and has distracted me from my crafting. Yes it was dust coating the fireplaces and dressing table, and, yes it was beginning to irritate me too much. I dusted round my bedroom and took some photos for you. Corners of my room that make me smile.

Do you like this eiderdown? I know I've probably got enough eiderdowns to transform my bedroom into a padded cell (and believe me there are days when this would be no bad thing) but I couldn't resist. I found it at the bottom of a pile of old blankets at a street market the other week. Unloved and discarded it did look very sorry for itself. For the princely sum of £5 it was mine. A quick wash and a day on the washing line and what a transformation. Lovely soft lemon background with sprigs of pink and violet flowers - I'm so glad I rescued it.

Did anyone get out to see the moon last night. It was beautiful and clear. I would have taken a photo but I rushed to take the oldest back to school in the evening for prizegiving and we were running late as usual. The car made it up the hill, just, when I realised that all was not well. We managed to get to a friend's house and discovered that one tyre was completely flat! Thankfully we were all okay and being so late we had no time to worry, we rang for a cab only to realise that I had no cash. Detour via the bank, oldest one at school on time and arrived home when the youngest burst into tears. She'd found the whole thing too worrying. A cuddle on the sofa and all was well.

Car fixed this morning, sun still shining and look what we've got to look forward to after school - I love Lucy! I think both of her expressions resembled mine last night! Anyway have a great weekend, I'm off to find some chocolate to eat whilst watching ...

Tuesday 13 November 2007

For Sale - Two bedroom cosy cottage

Pretty two bedroom country cottage for sale - very cosy! Pink front door and polka dot chimney. Pale blue windows and cheery red roof. Guaranteed to keep your pot of tea nice and warm.

It must have been writing about the cottage I made for my mum in my last post that made me want to make this tea cosy. She loved her tea and she loved country cottages too. Anyway, on Friday night I decided to give it a go, A roaring fire and pile of chocolate kept me going and by Sunday evening the cottage was ready! I've put it in my Etsy shop if anyone wants to have a look.

Thank you all so much for your lovely comments on the last post. It was quite a personal one for me to write and very hard to put into words. so huge THANK YOU! Several of you asked to see the original cottage I sewed for my mum when I was a schoolgirl. Well here it is (thanks M for going up to the loft to have a rummage) - very idyllic and not unlike the ones we see when we're out walking. One day ...
Have a good week

Friday 9 November 2007


I have been tagged by Tracy at Pink Purl to do a meme about why I craft. Having read the very interesting and entertaining answers that both Tracy and Anna have given to this meme. I've been worrying about doing this for a while. It is hard to write about something you love doing without sounding insincere, but in a nutshell, if you can't be bothered to read on, I do what I do because I love it!

1. When did you start to create and make crafts?
I have always been one for making and doing. Because I am an only child I am quite a shy creature and do enjoy my own company. I remember spending lots of time in my bedroom busy presenting Blue Peter showing the world what my latest creation was, always involving lots of egg cartons and sticky back plastic (and I'm pleased to say that I've caught both my daughters over the years doing their TV presenter bits in their bedrooms showing off their latest creations). I would love days at school when we could papier mache balloons, get the glitter out or make those stained glass windows with tissue paper for Christmas. I was (and still am) happiest making things or reading. I remember always asking for paints for presents and asking my mum to show me how to knit and sew. A favourite time of mine was when a very old Aunt would come and visit and she would always bring an old tin of brooches for me to play with, I loved the colours and sparkliness of them.

2. Why did you start creating?
I don't know why I started creating things. It is just something that I always enjoyed doing. It never felt right unless I had a project on the go. I loved giving my creations to my mum, who in best mummy fashion would adore them. I remember when I was younger that my mother always wanted to live in a cottage in the countryside and I bought a tapestry kit and made her a cottage surrounded by trees and flowers. She framed the picture and it hung in our hall for years - when she died it was lovely to get the picture back and it always makes me think of her.
Unfortunately I went to a very academic school and although I was good at Art I was encouraged to drop it in favour of History. At the time it wasn't a big deal but now I wish I'd stuck to my guns. But in a way perhaps what I liked about the creating I did when I was younger, was the fact that it could be done in private and not be judged.

3. Why do you create?
This is a hard one. I create because I need to (gosh that sounds a bit pretentious!). What I mean is that I need to be making something, my head is always full of projects and ideas and I know that I am perhaps just downright miserable and frustrated if I can't give them a go! I love colour and really enjoy using it, similarly, I love seeing shapes and patterns appear in my ragging. When I was a student, wherever I lived, the first thing I would do was buy a pot of paint. I had to add colour to my surroundings and make it my own. So perhaps like for most of us, I extend my love of making things to my surroundings too. I have done pottery and mosaics courses and loved them both and for a while sold my mosaics with a friend - but it is ragging that suits me best. The best form of recycling for me, creating something from nothing, from something that would have been thrown away. Giving things a new lease of life.

4. What do you create?
When I first started to ragrug I tended to make bigger pieces that were for my use. rugs etc. As time has gone on I have made smaller pieces for people to buy. It takes a lot of fabric and time to keep on making those rugs! Tea cosies seem to be a happy medium for me, scaled down rugs with a purpose! I like to have a go at most things and am enjoying playing with my new sewing machine, some days I feel like tackling everything but most days I stick to what I know!

5. Has this changed since you began crafting?
Things do change and evolve and there is a huge difference between what you enjoy making and having around the house and what others might enjoy. I look back and see things I made a few years back and enjoy following the trail back to the present. I can't thank everyone who reads this blog enough for giving me back my confidence and allowing me to indulge in what I love doing. I am constantly amazed at the wealth of talent and support that bloggers show.

6. What are your crafting goals for the future?
I am really enjoying making lots of things for Christmas and putting them in my Etsy shop and would love to be able to carry on with Etsy and I am loving being able to supply shops with my things too. Best of all, wouldn't it be lovely to have the time to make all the things that we would love to have a go at? Similarly wouldn't it be great if they turned out as wonderful as they are in our mind's eye!?

Well, that's it, very personal and sorry to have gone wittering on for so long.
I've always thought of myself as a person who plays it safe and never a rule breaker but this blogging business is bringing out the rebel in me - I think the rules of the meme are that I am meant to tag 5 other bloggers to answer the above questions. Well let's just forget the rules, if you want to join in and tell us why, feel free! Have a great weekend and pop over to read Anna's and Tracy's much more interesting and illuminating answers if you've got the time.
See you next week.

Monday 5 November 2007

What year is it?

Yes we did make it out on Friday! For some strange reason everything fell into place, the oldest went off to her sleepover, dressed as a corpse bride and returning on Saturday looking more like a zombie (without the help of make up, thanks to no sleep!). The youngest decided to be a little angel, enjoyed being alone with the new babysitter too. So off we went, me, M and two other male friends who's partners had also had babysitter problems and were forced to stay at home (must have been something in the air on Friday). We went to see Iron and Wine play and were immediately transported to the late 1960s in California, what a beautiful, beautiful sound, well worth all the stress of earlier on in the day. Beautiful!

We came home expecting little sister to still be up, watching TV with her new babysitting friend and were somewhat surprised (perhaps that's too mild a word} to find little sister tucked up in bed and , somewhat disconcertingly, a teenage boy sitting in her place on the sofa! He turned out to be very sweet and apparently was there keeping the babysitter company whilst she sat for us and her other friends turned up (who were incidentally at the Iron and Wine concert too, instant boost to our credibilty ratings there!).

Lazy day on Saturday, time in the garden raking up all the leaves - haven't we been lucky with this weather? It feels like early spring and judging by the amount of bees and butterflies spotted in the garden I'm not the only one to think so.

A pile of cupcakes to reward the gardeners whilst we listened to party stories from both girls and I even found time to make some new things for my Etsy shop. I've just finished a mountain of pompoms for a couple of orders, so it was nice to do something different for a change.

Sunday morning I woke up early and went to the car boot. So glad I did - I found this gorgeous pegbag in the loveliest 50s fabric. Pink, aqua, dove grey and seashells, I'm in love. I also found some pretty little glass bottles in that lovely shade of blue that old glass has. One is an old Boots Chemist bottle, complete with glass stopper, another medicine bottle and a tiny bottle of Eiffel Tower lemonade, from the 1950s. They'll all go upstairs to keep some others company in the bathroom.

The weather was too good to waste yesterday and we finally persuaded Big Sister to muster up the energy to come with us to take little sister to the park.

Another time warp here as quite by chance, we stumbled into the Veteran London to Brighton car rally that was nearing its finish and was using the park as its final check point.

I'm not a great car lover, as long as my car is safe, reliable and gets me from A to B I'm happy, but there is something to be said for the beauty and romance of these old cars, well, apart from the trails of smoke they leave behind and the achey bottom little sister said you would have if you sat on a wooden seat all the way from London!

Friday 2 November 2007

Yes, I know ...

... it's wrong, very wrong, to go and buy your teenage daughter's friend a birthday present and end up wanting to keep it for yourself. Yes I know it's wrong to take such a shine to all this saccharine cuteness.

My only defence is that in amongst the greeting card sweetness and old fashioned kittens and ponies are some great kitsch images and a weird little commentary.

Yes I know that the photos today are slightly out of focus, but I was trying not to bend the spine of the book before it's wrapped up (love the ladybird book wrapping paper by the way, but not liking the reprinted Janet and John books for some reason). There, now I'm talking about wrapping it up I think I've got time for one more browse...

Have a good weekend. We're off out tonight, that's if the military manoeuvre that is the taking of two girls to two separate parties, the hoping that the youngest likes the new babysitter, that M is back in time to go out, that the youngest isn't so hyped up after the sugar rush of her party that she won't calm down before we go and that the administering of Calpol to any of the people named above isn't required!

Oh yes and the babysitter told us last night that she wanted to go out too so we can't be out too late!!!