Wednesday, 4 March 2015

West Country Adventures

I think it's time to catch up on all the fabulous treasure hunting we've been fitting in down here in between all that decorating.  You know what they say about all work and no play...

We are lucky to have a rich hunting ground for such treasures nearby.  One of our regular haunts is Shepton Mallet, whether it be the antiques or flea market.  The flea market tends to be a favourite because it is more moochy (and prices tend to be cheaper).  There haven't been as many stalls over the Winter months because obviously, the weather is not too great but there is always a handful of sturdy folk who brave the cold.  They are rewarded with plenty of eager shoppers.

Of course, I am always on the look out for textiles.  I am now wondering why I didn't buy that red flowery one!

Some sellers make a real effort to style their stall and have themes to what they are selling as with this colourful example below.  Others pile it all on and the sturdier amongst us get down and have a good rummage!

I see this stall with its roses in bottles at many of the fairs including Ardingly.  I've no idea if they ever sell any as I keep seeing them, sometimes months apart!  Very pretty, though.

Paper ephemera has become another favourite of mine.  This seller had come all the way to Shepton from Brighton.  What is it about old script writing and parchment paper that is so appealing?  It was quite pricey, though.

We have a big car and we know how to fill it!

Almost better than the treasure hunting itself, is getting back home and having a play with all the goodies I've found.  Over the last few months, I'd been on the look out for pieces for the sitting room we've just decorated (so nearly ready to show you that, just the curtains to hang).  When I get home, the Furry Inspector is always ready for a good sniff!

Other than the fairs, there are lots of pretty villages and towns in the West Country to visit.  The other week, we popped to Honiton, just over the border in Devon, which is a town known for its many antiques shops.  I was on the look out for a side table for the sitting room (which we did indeed find) however on perusing one of my favourite shops, I could not leave this gorgeous Suffolk Puff quilt behind.   Made with many 1930's feedback fabrics, it was a must-have for my collection and in fabulous condition.  Drool!

If you've been reading my blog for some time, you'll know how fond we are of Bridport.  It's such a friendly town and we now know many of the shop owners and street market traders by name and have a good old natter.  Nothing is better than a Saturday mooching the street market and nearby vintage shops then heading to The Stable for pizza and cider.  I rarely come away empty handed though some weeks are better than others, of course.  As usual, textiles are my favourite and I've added some nice bits to my stash in recent times.

Hmm, more fabrics, a gorgeous pin cushion and I can never leave behind an old tape measure which is in inches only.

My style and tastes have evolved a little of late.  I still love the flowery 1940's vintage look but I've also become fond of faded country house textiles, many of which have come from across La Manche from France.  I'm building up my stash of such fabrics and have been trying to add some reds.  These fabrics are sadly very costly when you do find them so I only tend to have them in small but precious amounts.  I couldn't resist the vintage red leather baby shoes I found on a stall at Bridport's street market.  Too cute!

I don't just go out buying fabrics to look at, of course, I really do use them!  You may remember that I started a hexagon English Paper Piecing project a while back.  I enjoyed whiling away the evenings making the little rosettes and finally, the piece was large enough for a cushion front.  I set to, making the cushion cover on my old Singer Featherweight, making my own covered piping for the first time in many years and (yikes!) deciding to insert a zip alongside it.

It was one of those days when everything just went right and after a morning's work, my cushion was completed.  The idea was for it to look as if it had been made from a section of an old patchwork quilt.  I'm quite chuffed with it.  Of course, I have a new EPP project on the go already!  More of that soon.

Back to treasure hunting, the recent flea market at Shepton Mallet was absolutely heaving.  I wonder if this fair is going to become a victim of its own success.  It now attracts a lot of dealers which makes it rather less fun for the everyday punter.  The organiser is obviously happy and the entrance fee is going up from £3.50 to £4.50 at the next fair in April.  Hmm!

I am happy if I come home with a handful of vintage fabrics and even more so, if like last time, I can add a vintage quilt to my collection (do you see how it's now becoming a collection!)  Last time, I was lucky enough to find this rather divine feedsack grandmother's garden quilt at a lovely thrifty price.  The Furry Inspector wasted no time in getting on with his job as soon as I walked through the door and laid out the quilt for inspection.

No, Charlie Boy, it's not for you.  Awww mum!

I decided to give it a bath which I'm not sure I'll do again in a hurry!  It was incredibly heavy when wet and of course, it is not easy to get them dry at this time of year.  Anyway, it is now fresh and clean and just needs a couple of seams fixing and one patch mending.

Well, that's it for today, lovely readers, I have a date with a paintbrush for the rest of the day! 

Enjoy the sunshine. Xxx

Friday, 27 February 2015

Little Squares

Hello readers, welcome from a sunny West Country.  Apologies for what has been an unintentionally long absence but we have been hard at it with the renovations so I really would have been asking you to watch paint dry!

We've just had half term here and my friend Erin came to stay with us as she is a teacher so we usually see her in the school holidays.    Hurrah!  This is a good excuse for me to laze around crafting and as the weather was not too great some of the time, we were quite hermit-like in our behaviour.  We welcomed Erin with a little afternoon tea.

Otherwise, we spent our time either in the newly decorated sitting room with crochet or knitting in hand...

Or, predictably, in the Den.

I finally had the time to make something that has been in the back of my mind for a long time.  I wanted to cut lots of little 2" squares and I wanted cute, sugary, ditsy patterns.  1930's repos it is then.   The fabric needed to be easy care and washable hence going for modern instead of vintage fabric. You see, in between all the painting and decorating, I have still managed to add the odd bits of fabric to my stash.  With a little nudge from yours truly, Mr HenHouse gifted me this divine fat quarter bundle for Christmas.  Trouble was, could I bring myself to cut into it?  Yikes.

It seemed I could and after a few happy hours, my fabric buffet emerged.  I like to have plenty to choose from, the left overs can always be used for another project another time.

Over to the Featherweight then for some lovely piecing.  Oh happy days!

Bizarrely, my project soon finished, it necessitated poor old Mr HenHouse taking the kitchen table outside for a much-needed re-sand of the top!

Et VoilĂ .  You may recall I made some place mats in this style a few years back.  They have been much used and washed and still look mighty fine.  I fancied a table runner which I could use all the time for the middle of our pine kitchen table.  We now have a lovely dining room (kitchen/diner) which has a very large run of windows with fabulous views so we are often to be found at that very pine table which sits in front of the window.

When we were looking for a new home, we considered a property which had the most wonderful original Victorian kitchen.  We decided the house wasn't otherwise right for us but the kitchen had me hooked.  It had two runs of very large original pine dressers and I set my little heart on a similar dresser with sliding glass doors.  Well blow me if we didn't walk past an antiques shop that was about to open up in a local town soon after moving and spy just the thing through the window.  I knocked on the window, a quick measure up at home later and the dresser was ours!  A tad orange at that stage but no matter.  Mr HenHouse shifted it into the garage to start the de-oranging process.

Not a fun job but it was soon ready for painting which is where I came in.  I chose colours we will likely use when we have the kitchen revamped (namely F&B Wimborne White and Skimming Stone).

We're really pleased with the transformation and although it required a goodly amount of elbow grease, it was a lot cheaper than buying a quality new counterpart from a kitchen company and we have the added bonus of knowing it is an original used and loved piece.

It was sadly a bit of a gloomy day when I took these pictures but it did at least present an excuse to put the fairy lights on!

Cheerio for now.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Passionate about Patchwork

Hello readers, how are we all this week?  It's pretty chilly here in the West Country but we have been rewarded with some beautiful bright and sunny days.

I've dusted off my Liberty wellies and they have finally been pressed into action rather than being purely ornamental!

Exciting news is that we now have a new friend in our paddock behind the house.  Smartie belongs to a neighbour, he's such a sweet horse and I love looking out and seeing him there.

Indoors, Mr HenHouse has been keeping out of mischief and is working hard, transforming our sitting room.  It's quite a large room and he is a perfectionist so it's all taking some time but will be worth it in the end.  It was a bit of a gloomy day when I took this picture a few weeks ago but it's usually light and bright, and we will have wonderful views from the windows once the room is finished.

The surprising thing is that The Mr has eschewed all offers of help from yours truly.  So I've taken myself off to my Den and set about making some accessories for the new room.

We're going for a soft and light look in this sitting room, sort of English country meets French faded,  so I turned to my stash of vintage fabrics.

I've been collecting these fabrics over the last year or so.  They are not easy to find and shockingly expensive when you do.  None the less, I have little bundles of soft quilt pieces...

Petite stacks of flowery faded linens and cottons...

...and some more colourful ones too, red being a particular favourite.

We have two new sofas for the sitting room so I decided I should get to work on making some cushions.  I had a look through a favourite book from which I made some pretty cushions last Summer, Cushions and Quilts by Jo Colwill of Cowslip Workshops, and settled on a pretty design.  My favourite bit was selecting the twenty-five different vintage fabrics for the patchwork panel on the front.  Once I had piece the front, I was treated to a pleasant few hours hand quilting with perle cottons and added a few old mother of pearl and linen covered buttons from my stash.  I bought  a whole jar of linen covered buttons for £3 from a garage sale in Bridport a while back.  I knew they'd come in handy one day.

It was quite an easy make though I did find the directions for the cushion pad were a bit off. A 12" x 16" cushion pad wasn't big enough and the suggestion to fold an 18" cushion in half didn't seem to work either.  I happily decided I would just chop the top off a large feather cushion pad I already had and re-sew it to the correct size.  Aaarrgghh, feather alert!  Perhaps not my cleverest idea but nothing the hoover couldn't sort out, and in the end, I had the perfectly shaped plump feather pad!  I think I would re-jig the sizes next time so that a standard sized pad will fit nicely.

I used some more of the linen buttons for the side fastening which I think is a pretty finish with the feature fabric strip and an idea I will use again.

I love my cushion!

Finishing this cushion left me in need of a new project and I fancied some hand stitching inspired by a cushion cover made from an old patchwork quilt which I spotted in a Cabbages and Roses book and a similar one on the feed of @flowerpotcottage on Instagram.

I've been obsessively stitching rosettes each morning and evening.

We had a day off and went to the antiques fair at Shepton Mallet where a few treasures and more fabric was found.

I stocked up on some more special fabrics from Sue (Vintage to Victorian).  You may remember in a previous blog post, I mentioned Sue had found a suitcase containing wonderful hand paper pieced blocks from a patchwork quilt along with the fabrics that had been being used to make it.  The papers used in the piecing were taken from old letters and Sue was able to find a date circa 1880.  Because they have been stored out of the light in the suitcase for years, the fabrics and quilt pieces are of incredible museum-worthy quality.

I wonder if you can see from this photograph the condition of the chintz fabric.  It is so stiff it is almost like folded waxed paper and the sheen from the size is still very thick.

I felt they would be perfect to give my latest piece a real vintage (even antique) quality.  I sewed up this block using one of the shirting-style stripes.  Oh my, but it was incredibly hard work to sew that stiff thick fabric.  I have worn a hole in my leather thimble!

I'm very happy with the way this is looking and I am enjoying choosing new fabrics each day.  Soon, I should be ready to sew them together.

Hopefully, we will have the best dressed sofas in the West!