Friday, November 30, 2007


I have always loved patchwork - I guess because you get to use so many fabrics in just one project! The problem for me was the British way of patch-working, with all the paper templates, is so time consuming......

(Taken from 'Collectable Quilts' by Mary Clare Clark.)
So several years ago I enrolled on a patchwork course which taught the American method. The shapes are cut from the fabrics to including a small seam allowance. They can then be joined up on the sewing machine or using a small hand running stitch.

Luckily for me there is a shop in Bath which regularly imports fabrics from the States. They also run the courses in a studio at the back of the shop. (If ever you have the chance to go, it is an Aladdin's cave for the fabricaholic! It is called 'Country Threads' and is in Pierrepont Place.) Every week we were shown a new block to create, each one getting more and more complex. At the end of the course I had completed all of my 12 block which was enough to make a quilt large enough for a single bed.

I chose a fabulous collection of American folk art fabrics. They featured apple pickers, grist mills and lots of black cats! The first square is called 'tumbling blocks' made from diamond shapes - I tried to make mine look like crates full of sliced apples. The second is 'pinwheel' - I had to take care to make sure that the little figures on the fabric all stood up straight - I didn't want them upside down on the finished quilt!

I think the third block was my version of an eight pointed star! - I'm sure more proficient patchworkers will correct me if I'm wrong! This is followed by a traditional 'log cabin', which should be dark on one side and light on the other - if you were to make a whole quilt made up of log cabin blocks, you start to create patterns within patterns - they can be stunning.
At the time I had a real love for all the muted colours of the country style fabrics. I used a beautiful fabric range that was designed by a very talented American folk art artist. (Could it have been Carol Endres? I'm sure some of you American gals could tell me.)
The little Amish style people are delightful. As you can see, I finally finished putting my quilt together, with its layer of batting and quilt stitches in July 1999.
The following year I enrolled on another course. This time it was to produce a smaller lap quilt made from soft cotton flannel. I continued with my folk art theme and produced this quilt.

It is a basic log cabin design, with the centre squares each featuring charming houses in an embroidered sampler style.

If I remember correctly, a one metre length of the house fabric gave just enough of them to complete the quilt.

I backed it in a sweet cross-stitch alphabet printed flannel - this is such a cosy and soft lap quilt - perfect for the winter months, snuggled in an arm chair.

The little heart wall hanging was quick and easy to make from homespun checks.
I haven't actually made any other patchwork quilts for a while. I did start another flannel quilt made up of lines of little houses, which resemble seaside beach huts. I don't like to start a project and not see it completed, so I think I may try to finish this over the Christmas holidays.

My own home has moved on from the homespun/country look, but I do still have soft spot for it and all things Shaker inspired. When my daughters leave home, I think I will decorate one of the bedrooms in this style, with my quilts and some rustic country furniture. It should make for a comfy and fun spare room for them to stay in when they come home.
Happy St. Andrew's Day to all of my Scottish friends!
And I hope everyone has a lovely weekend, Niki x

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Autumn Colour.

Unbelievably, the little narcissus bulbs that I planted in the tea cups just last week, have started to flower! I would suggest if anyone was thinking about giving flowering bulbs as a gift that they plant them just one or two days before they are to be given!
They certainly are cheerful -I love to fill my home with colour.
Anemones are so vibrant and can usually be picked up fairly cheaply from a local greengrocers - mine were just 70 pence for the whole bunch.

They are cut and sold dry, but once they are placed in water at home they unfurl their petals within hours. I've used an old pink pressed glass vase to display them for that nostalgic look.
I brought some of my pelargoniums in from the garden before the first frosts; replanted in an enamelware bowl they make another colourful show at this time of year on my kitchen windowsill.

And in the living room.....

....these unusual brassica stems make quite a statement during the colder months -almost as beautiful as summer roses!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Christmas Internet Shopping.

Have you seen these that the talented Kim of 'Ragged Roses' makes, which she sells in her Etsy shop? Three vintage rag covered balls arrived at my home beautifully presented in a little fabric bag. Kim also included a sweet smelling lavender sachet with the parcel - thank you Kim. x

The rag balls would make great Christmas decorations - I am going to fill a vintage china bowl with mine in my living room, so that I can look at them everyday!

I also went shopping at the courageous Amy's web shop. I bought the colourful, floral vintage towel for my kitchen and the packets of self-cover buttons.

I have already had some fun with the buttons, covering them in some hand embroidered linen taken from an old tablecloth.

I love the fact that you just pop-out the pattern piece from the packaging, so that you know what size to cut the fabric to cover each button! These will be a great addition to my handmade bags and dolls.

I have updated my website today and have decided to include some bags handmade by a friend of mine, as something fresh for you to look at. Helen is a talented lady who recycles vintage fabrics to make her one-of-a-kind shoulder bags and totes.

I have also been busy myself, making a small collection of one-off fairy dolls....

(Sorry we're sold - thank you!)
and rag dolls.....

(sorry we're sold - thank you!)
as well as some pretty handmade brooch pillows and my own vintage fabric bags.

(Sorry all sold - thank you!)
This will be my last big website update for a while, as I am taking 6 months to work on some other projects. I will still randomly add goods to my website when I have had time to hand make a new item, so I hope you can bare with me during this period; but for reasons that I won't go into on my blog, I feel that life is short and there are other things I want to try. (When I add new stock to the site, I shall place a notice on the 'home' page.)
Happy Christmas Shopping!
UPDATE TUES 27th 7.30pm.
I have received a few emails today regarding my blog. Sorry for any confusion - I WILL be continuing with my blog. It is my WEBSITE'S ON-LINE CATALOGUE that will not be updated so frequently. I have another project that I wish to work on for a while, so will not have the time to devote to hand making lots of new stock. I will try to add new items randomly when I have been able to make something new, but I really need this time to work on my other project. Sorry for the confusion, but hope this has cleared things up! - Please don't stop visiting my blog!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tea Time Treats

As a Mum, I know how busy this time of year can be. When my daughters were still at Primary School, the weeks seemed to fly by and all of a sudden Christmas would be upon us. The children's teachers played such an important roll in their young lives, that I always wanted to show my appreciation for this with a small gift that I had created with the girls at the end of the school term.

These tea cup gift sets were always a big hit and if you are a slightly harassed mother, looking for a little present for your child to offer at Christmas time, then I hope this helps. A quick trip to a charity shop or car boot sale should turn up a pretty vintage cup and saucer, or perhaps you have a set to spare in your kitchen cupboard.

My first suggestion (to make without the children, for obvious safety reasons) would be a Christmas candle. Carefully melt a small church candle in a foil dish over a saucepan of boiling water. Save the wick and place it into the centre of the cup (You can secure it with a dab of PVA glue in the bottom of the cup if you wish.) You will need to support it upright in the middle with a pencil placed across the rim of the cup.
Carefully pour the wax into the cup around the wick and allow to set. You could add aromatherapy oils or lavender flowers too. Keep a little wax back as it may need topping up, as sometimes a well appears around the wick.
A simpler idea to do WITH the children are these bulb planters. Choose a small variety of flowering bulb and plant in a little compost, or buy them ready planted in pots and split them up into the cups. Dress the top with sphagnum or Spanish moss.
If time is short, pick some festive leaves and berries from your garden and create a small posy tied with ribbon and place it in the cup or tied to the handle.
For a retro girl fill a 1950's kitsch rose printed tea cup with yummy chocolate truffles or other festive sweets. (Incidentally, I hang these 'Lindt Lindor' truffles with ribbons from our Christmas tree, as they are so delicious and look like little Xmas baubles.)

For an older teacher perhaps, tie a lavender filled heart made from vintage fabric to the cup handle and fill with pretty hankies or lace.

The cups can be presented inside a large square of cellophane gathered up around it and tied with festive ribbons and trims.
Maybe your china is pretty enough to be received as it is or fill with small gift ideas of your own, such as soaps and bath cubes or speciality tea bags. Pincushions can be another fun alternative too.
In today's very commercial world, I think these little tea cups make a sweet statement that you care enough to make the effort to say 'thank you'. I am sure they would also make a welcome gift to an elderly neighbour, or have a couple to hand for unexpected guests over the festive season.
Have fun!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Treasure Seeking.

It seems to be getting harder and harder to find unusual and quirky items at the antiques fairs recently. I spent the whole day yesterday at a large fair with hundreds of stands and thousands of items for sale, but it took a lot of effort to discover the elusive boudoir, one-of-a-kind treasures that I love to bring home. There were acres of brown furniture and china figurines (many costing hundreds of pounds), but that's just not my style......
I did find these cheerful little felt corsages and trims dating from the 1930's/40's that just need a little TLC.
And these two corsages that would have been made during wartime as part of the 'Make-do and Mend' campaign. They were created from tiny cones and beech nut husks, daubed with gold paint and stitched onto felt leaves with a safety pin fastening.
This tiny rose bud braid is exquisite and of a good usable length.
Some more sparkly brooches to add to hand crafted bags and special keepsakes.
A collection of Victorian photo album mounts with beautiful floral printed bouquets.

And my favourite treasure was this heavy cardboard screen. It is only a couple of feet high, so I am not entirely sure what it would have been used for. This is the kind of item I love to find, as I shall probably never see another again and adding items such as this to a home make it unique and interesting.
It features two romantic couples seated in a garden and probably dates from the Victorian era.
I hope you are all having a treasure filled weekend! Niki x