Saturday, 14 September 2013

A new adventure: pattern cutting!

It's September: the first month in over a year that my husband and I have not been thinking about weddings...Or making things for weddings. I mean, what to do with all that newly freed-up time....?

Maybe I could attempt to actually BAKE something..? I mean, it would be nice to have a freshly made cake as a treat after work..

No, probably not a good idea since my last attempt at muffins saw them threatening  (and then succeeding) in overrunning the oven, thanks to an over-abundance of baking powder. Plus I have absolutely zero patience in the kitchen (obviously all the patience I could have spared has been directed at my sewing machine and two crazy cats...)

So rather than subject the world to an army of rampaging proto-muffins, I've taken the plunge and signed up for a course in pattern cutting at the Mary Ward Centre in London. It's the first proper term-length course I have taken since leaving uni six years ago - and the very first with any kind of practical, creative assessment! I'm nervous and excited at the same time, which in my book can only be a good thing.

And look - my supplies have arrived!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Cats and craft

I'm sure this scenario is familiar to most crafty cat owners. 

The postman has been and that long-anticipated ream of fabric has finally arrived. You have pressed it,  laid it out on the floor or on your sewing table. You have carefully cut out each pattern piece and pinned them to your fabric,  painstakingly matching up the fabric pattern as you go...

... and your cat who has (up until now) turned his nose up at you all day, decides there is no place in the world he would rather be than spread across your "best laid plans", interrupting his rest every so often to attack your scissors as you attempt to cut a particularly tricky corner or to skirmish after what could only be an imaginary mouse beneath that nice, rustly piece of pattern paper! 

My husband and I live with two cats: Mini Kittie aka Shatner aka Tyrannocat and Timmy aka Fat Tim akaTimmy the Nightmare Creature aka Craft Cat. 

Timmy likes nothing better than to thwart my crafting plans...

 Mini Kittie, on the other hand, is far above that kind of thing!

I should really ban him from my sewing room but he seems to love hanging around me as I work so much that I just don't have the heart to do it!

I'm sure you'll be seeing a lot more of him. Do any of you have pets that love to "help" you with your craft?

Saturday, 31 August 2013

A wedding and DIY potpourri

Ah I have been silent for many, many months. It's not because I haven't wanted to write. No, not at all! In fact I got married just over two weeks ago and so every last drop of my attention was focussed on planning for it, crafting wedding favours and hunting down little random bits and bobs to give a personal touch to the venue on the day. Sadly this left me with very little time to write (or to do anything more than cast a longing glance around the doorframe of my sewing room! Poor neglected sewing machine...) 

So with the wedding theme in mind, what better way to make a return to the blog than with a short and sweet wedding-related craft project?

Our venue on the day was a 15th century merchant's hall and as it was a Grade 1 listed building, no confetti was allowed inside. Many of our guests had brought boxes upon boxes of the stuff and were most dismayed to discover that they would not be able to fling it at us as we left the hall. It seemed a shame to let it go to waste so I brought the boxes home with me and began to think of creative uses for it...

Potpourri seemed a good option. Half of the confetti was made from dried flower petals so this formed a natural base for the potpourri. I also decided to add a box of rice paper confetti to the flower petals, breaking up the colour a bit and adding a little "twist" to the mix!

It was really easy and quick to make - I just tipped all the confetti into a plastic freezer bag and added about eight drops of lavendar essential oils to the bag (time will tell whether this is too strong but hey - a little experimentation never hurt!), before tying the bag and giving the whole thing a good shake.

 I left everything in the bag for two or three hours so the petals could get well and truly covered in lavendar oil. The potpourri was then ready to go into a bowl I picked up from a local charity shop for the princely sum of £1! A total bargain.

The finished product

Some friends gave us a wedding card with charms inside - a wooden heart, butterfly and (randomly) a starfish so I put these on top for safe keeping ;)

Not only do we have a beautiful reminder of our wedding but our sitting room sure smells nice!*

*The potpourri has been out of its bag now for about an hour and contrary to previous fears, I can confirm that we have not been choked by lavendar fumes!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Charity Shop Charleston: Victorian Easter

I like nothing more than a good rummage around a charity shop. (I reckon my childhood love of jumble sales is to blame for this. Which reminds me-I really must apologise to my mum for all those hideous ornaments I bought her between the ages of five and ten..)

There is something ridiculously exciting about hunting through the rails and baskets in the pursuit of "hidden treasure"- I mean, who knows when you might find that perfect vintage swimsuit or a set of Babycham glasses? (and yes, this has happened to me..all on the same day. It was wonderful.)

I am lucky enough to live near a town that hosts no less than five good-quality shops so charity shopping is a bit of a regular occurrence as you can imagine! My fiance and I are getting married in a few months time, though, so I've been under a shopping ban for a while now. But last weekend, I broke...and this is why:

I basically bought the shop's entire collection of vintage stockings - the colours were just irresistible. Silver (seems to have been a particular favourite in this town - I found no less than four pairs in two different shops!), pink, blue and a very unusual burnt orange colour. With Easter just around the corner, I couldn't pass up this little Easter postcard:

The stamps were intact and the postcard even had a manfucturer name "Tuck's Postcard". After a bit of research, I was able to date the postcard to the early 1900s and also discovered that Raphael Tuck and Sons was a very famous postcard distributer from the mid 1800s to the middle of last century. 

A history of the company and a database of their postcards can be found here: I could browse this archive for hours - the "Tennis Tournament" set in particular is just lovely:

Another interesting find was this old French postcard, dating from around about the same time:

Both postcards have messages on the back - I love finding old postcards that have actually been used. It's such a personal reminder of the past and I often find myself wondering who the people were and where the rest of their family is now..

I wanted to find a way of displaying these postcards, rather than resigning them to a drawer somewhere, so they have become part of the Easter basket on our fireplace. The basket also contains a handmade bird cushion that I finished a few weeks ago. It was part of a cushion set my Mum bought me for Christmas last yea, a very welcome and unexpected gift!

The snow has put paid to any charity shop hunts for this weekend but then again....there's always next weekend (or the weekend after!)

Thursday, 7 March 2013

World Book Day: Thoughts on Libraries and Business Inspiration

When I first typed the title of this post into my tablet, auto correct promptly changed it to "Weird Book Day" but no. I'm talking about World Book Day, which is taking place on Thursday 7th March this year. 

This year World Book Day is particularly significant - public libraries are being threatened with closure due to cuts and misunderstandings about their role in today's society; debates are also raging about right of access to free information (see Terry Deary's widely condemned comments on the subject). 

Mulling this over as I was leaving my own public library just last week, I made an unexpected connection between the role of libraries and business inspiration. 

I had gone to the library in search of books on entrepreneurship, business finance and careers. These books are expensive to buy and when it comes to something as important as your work, the sooner you get stuck in, the better. In these situations the library is invaluable. 

And that's not all - when you go to the library, you enter with an idea, When you leave, you leave with a book that tells you how to make your idea a reality. In the case of business books (and many others focussed on self-development for that matter), your goal is often there - right in front of you - on the front cover. For me, actually seeing your goal on the cover of a book, that has to be returned by a set date, has a very strong psychological impact. It motivates by showing you that you have an aim, that you are taking steps to reach it and that by a certain date, you will be one step more closer to attaining it. You just don't get this sense of urgency (or sense of a challenge!) when buying a book or e-book.

Come to think of it, auto correct may not have been too far off with "Weird Book Day"..head down to your library and take out a book it would never even occur to you to read. You never know: it may just give you the inspiration you need to do something it would never usually occur to you to do.

World Book Day events have been planned today up and down the country. Information about these events can be found at the World Book Day website

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

At a crossroads

The first blog post is a lot like writing the first paragraph of a novel: difficult.

Here it is. I've started a blog. Well..I've written a blog POST if I want to get pedantic (sorry - that's the Language Geek speaking. I can't control it). So why now?

I suppose that first and foremost, I have always had a drive to share my day-to-day experiences, discoveries, passions and peeves with friends and family (my fiancé is most often at the brunt of my daily 'memory dumps' - he claims I have an almost photographic memory when it comes to the day's events and now has a very well-trained ear as a result!) Now I promise not to resort to any "daily memory dumps" here but a blog seems to me to be a natural extension of this: I want it to be a place where I can share the things I find, the places I visit and the things that inspire me (for an idea of what might be in store, take a look at my "About Me" page). It's amazing is taken me this long to be honest!

Finally, I feel like I have reached some kind of crossroads this year. Life seems to be changing and taking on a new direction. Who knows where it will take me but one thing is for sure: it's going to be interesting! The blog seems to me a natural development with all of this in the background.

So that's all for this first post - til next time!