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!

Xxx

Friday, 9 January 2015

Spooltastic!

Happy New Year, readers.  I feel a little late to the party (nine days to be precise) but the sentiment is true, none the less.



This week here at The Old Vicarage, Mr HenHouse has been busy decorating the sitting room.  I will help him when it gets to the painting but the sanding is his domain.  I therefore found myself with a little very welcome time on my hands, I even found time to look at a favourite magazine. (Issue Seventeen.)


There was a particular project which caught my eye.


Spooltastic!

I wanted to make some thank you cards for friends and hmm, maybe I might whip up a few goodies, too.

I attacked the scrap drawers.  I wanted bright, I needed colourful!  I hunted out spots, dots, stripes, checks.  Ditsy flowers here and there, lots of easy and oh so enjoyable piecing.


Combined with a bit of linen to make the tops and bottoms, the spools began to emerge.  Just like old fashioned Sylko!  I made a little variation with the square-ended spools to jazz things up a bit.


I added a spot of simple embroidery with perle cottons, choosing to add a line of co-ordinating coloured running stitch to outline the top and bottom of each spool.  I also added the word "SYLKO" to the middle spool of each set.  I just write this on freehand with an air-erasable pen.  Cute!

Before too long, the spools were finished and it was time to attach them to a string to make the bunting.  I hunted in my stash to find a suitable bit of tape.


I didn't have enough for both sets (it's rare the stash is defeated!) so I set out to track down some more.  I can report that Hobbycraft has a good selection, pretty cheap, too.  


I made one set incorporating flower power 1960's florals combined with crazy spots by Kaffe Fasset.



Whilst pondering all things spooly and Sylko, and having been reading my vintage mags this week, I wanted to show you the fabulous adverts in them I've always loved.

Each issue had a different advert with fabulous artwork.  I love the one with the escalator.  These are from the late 1930s, early 1940s.


During the wartime years and beyond, in time of paper shortage, magazines were published less frequently and generally in a smaller format.  The advert on the reverse was not necessarily different every time but always colourful and artistic.  You can spot the references to "make do and mend".


The bunting finished, it was time to see how it would look.


The backdrop is a bit too distracting.

There, that's better.


I made the other set using modern fabrics, in a retro style.


I enjoyed making them, I loved selecting and piecing the fabrics,  though I generally dislike working with linen as it has such a loose weave so I think it is difficult to achieve a perfect shape with the spool ends.  Next time, I'll use a stiffer plain cotton fabric which looks like linen, I think.  I also didn't like the fact that the instructions were to embroider the spools once the backing was already sewn on.  This means you can see your embroidery on the plain reverse and although I did my very best to be neat and I suppose it's not on display, it offends my neat and tidy nature!  So maybe there are a few modifications to try next time.

They're all tied up and ready to be posted.


I hope they're well received!
Enjoy your weekend.
Xxx

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Do You Mind if I Knit?

It is with a very heavy heart that I write this post.  Last week, I received some very sad news which knocked me for six, that a special lady and friend of mine tragically had passed away.  I wouldn't normally think to share personal news but the reality is that I know it will touch many of you, too.


Lots of you might instantly have thought of this lady on seeing the title of my blog post.  You will likely have loved the fabulous colourful blog of that name which gave a privileged glimpse into the talented world of Vanessa Cabban.  Vanessa had an immense creative talent; she was known for illustrating children's books for Walker Books which was her day job but we also knew her for her pretty watercolour painting, her stripy knitting and crochet and latterly, her fabulous papier mache creations.


You may or may not recall, depending on how long you have been reading this blog, that she and I used to indulge in an old-fashioned friendship in which we regularly took turns in sending a parcel of goodies and letters to each other.  Vanessa and I shared very similar tastes and had a knack of choosing and making things for the other which we really loved.  It was the best, most indulgent type of swap.  I realise this even more so now.  I still have all the lovely things Vanessa made for me.  From a wire basket she painted in a charming shade of duck egg blue to the stunning multi-coloured diamond-patterned crochet scarf.


Looking back this morning through all the old blog posts I wrote about our exchanges, I realise how many of the things Vanessa gave me surround me in my everyday life.  It's a testament to the things she chose for me, and the thought she put into doing so, that I appreciate them to this day.  It is rare to find a person on a similar wavelength to yourself.



Vanessa's spirit lives on in her colourful creations and mainly, in the inspiration she gave us all.  I remember her for her love of colour and pattern and I only have to look round my own home to see her influence.  



I'm going to indulge myself; every time I have a few quiet moments in the coming days, I'm going to re-read every last bit of her blog and remember the special, talented woman she was.

RIP Vanessa, I hope you are at peace now. Xxx




*********************************************************************************

There are references to Vanessa dotted throughout my blog but if you wish, you can read the original blog posts detailing my friendship with Vanessa and our creations for each other here here here here and here