Monday, 15 September 2014

The Brocante

The Summer has flown by so fast that when I look back through my photos to select some to base a blog post upon, some of these events feel as if they happened aaaaages ago when in reality it was just a few weeks or so.  I'm going to take it as a sign of a good Summer.

Rewinding back to the end of August, we had a rare weekend at home and I was pretty glad because I had an outing planned.  Off we set in Delia Disco (that's our new car, christened by The Munchkin) for the pretty rolling countryside of Sussex.  We flew past perfect village greens, cute public houses promising scrummy home-cooked food and the most gorgeous crooked cottages replete with leaded multi-paned windows and gardens full of hollyhocks. The stuff of English fairy tales.  Finally, we found ourselves in Wisborough Green and it lived up to all those images one has of the quintessential English village.

On the green, the cricket match was taking place which the boys enjoyed but I was more interested, I confess, in that large white  marquee in the distance.  It promised to have many delights inside in the form of the Wisbrorough Green Brocante.  We were early so we had a chance to stroll round the green and take it all in, bumping into a few old friends for a natter along the way.  

I bet that just like me you like a good nosy at the local houses, especially if they are lovely cottages awash with character such as these.

A longish queue had formed outside by the time we returned from the charity shop (with a bag full of gorgeous linen and haberdashery!)  It soon dissipated as eager shoppers thronged inside.  If I have a complaint about the fair it is that it was a bit too busy.  They would have done well to have operated a "one way" system inside the marquee and better controlled the numbers inside at any one time.

Anyway, right inside the entrance, I was thrilled to see a lovely young lady and favourite seller of mine, Emma from Velvet Ribbon.  She has a great eye and I fell greedily on her fabrics for sale.  Stash maintenance is a subject I take most seriously.

I would say the theme of this fair was definitely along French and faded lines.  There was a lot of painted chippy furniture, pastel coloured enamelware and linen textiles.  There were some lovely handmade items too and it was necessary to exercise restraint on the purse strings!

I didn't take a lot of photos, it wasn't really possible with the volume of people.  Some of the stalls were incredibly packed in, I had to walk round several times to get to look at most things (I expect I didn't see everything).  I'm sure this is great for the organisers but doesn't make for the best experience for the visitors (who had paid to get in).

The pubs in the village also fitted the bill perfectly and were very quaint but there was an hour wait for lunch at this one.  I think Wisborough Green had been besieged by treasure-seeking ladies of Sussex and beyond!

All in all, we had a lovely day out; the weather was kind, the setting glorious and I was most happy with my purchases, mainly of the fabric kind.  (Roses still blooming in the garden.)

It wasn't long before I wanted to get my hands on those lovely textiles.  A spot of patchwork and quilting then.

Some more flea market bags were born.  I love making these, get a thrill out of coming up with something so pretty but decidedly useful.  A few remain in my Etsy shop but others have been re-homed already.

I now have one last order on my commission books this week and then I'm going to be taking quite a break.  I'll tell you more about that next time. Xxx

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Festival of Quilts

Hello again readers and thank you so much for the warm welcome back last week.  

Well, another year, another fabulous festival.  Back in August (it seems so long ago!) we headed up to Birmingham again, the boys went off to the Severn Valley Railway and I spent two glorious days immersed in all things quilty.  You really cannot do justice to the Festival of Quilts at the NEC in one day so I always treat myself to a hotel and a couple of nights.

Howdy!  Here I am all ready to leave the hotel and hit those stands running.  Let me at it!

It's a little mini trek (fifteen minutes) through the NEC to get to the actual halls where the festival is held.  Luckily, adrenaline/euphoria gets you through pretty quickly whilst along the way you admire the ladies heading the same direction with their patchwork bags which are pretty much de rigeur.  Here's mine, empty and ready for action!

The first stand I invariably come to, I suppose because it's massive, it's more than one stand for a start, and it's pretty much at front central of the festival, is that of the The Cotton Patch.  They always have some sewing celebs on the stand signing their latest book or showcasing their latest range of fabrics and I had a natter with the delightful Amy Butler again.  A more pleasant and genuine lady you shall not meet.  I cooed over this bag she had designed, clever old stick, and bought the pattern and some fabrics and trims from her range to make it.  One day.  It is so very tempting at F0fQ, you end up being completely inspired and enthusiastic and before you know it, you have enough projects to keep you going for the year.  And beyond.

There was a new stall with oodles of Liberty Tana Lawn and other pretty lawn fabrics.  A feast for the senses, don't you think?

Let's look at some quilts, shall we, because it's not all about shopping, is it?  I suppose I am a bit of a traditionalist, what I want to see are classic patterns, 1930s will do nicely thank you, and if you can make them in real vintage fabrics of the period so much the better.  Pretty colour, yes please.  Liberty Tana Lawn, wouldn't say no.  Florals, most definitely.  I suppose that a lot of the quilts exhibited at the festival are not really my cup of tea, therefore.  It's not to say I cannot admire the handiwork but there's too much modern and too much grey and brown and too much free motion quilting for me.

Sorry, I shall step down from my soap box now!

Thus quilt had some cute details.  Anything with cats on is good in my eyes.

I did think this one was very clever and the maker had designed the pattern herself.  I think you can really sense the movement.  Impressive and nice to look at too, don't you think?  Personally I think I would find it hard to stick to so few colours (knowing me you know this too!) so I applaud this.

This was probably my favourite quilt.  Pretty fabrics and cotton reels, what more do you need?

Anyway, back to the shopping.  I had a very small list because I am not really a believer in a shopping list at the FofQ, you need to just go with the flow, but as it turns out, I had left it on the table in my Den.  Very useful.  No matter because I seemed to manage to fill those bags quite easily!  I always love getting back to our room at the end of the day and unpacking all my goodies onto the bed for a good gawp.  There seems to have been a bit of a pale and interesting theme this year.

Whilst perusing, I came across Jo Colwill's stand, Jo runs Cowslip Workshops in Cornwall.  In my last post, I showed you the cushions I had made from the patterns in Jo's book.  She had beautiful fabrics on her stall alongside samples she had made and I am going to make myself one of these little hare hangings one day.

Liked this quilt very much.  There's just something about little houses?

I always find the miniature quilts a little mind boggling.  I've even held up my tape measure so you can see just how small those pieces are.  Yikes!

There was a lovely display once more by the National Quilt Museum from York but as usual, no photography was allowed.  It focussed this year on paper pieced quilts, notably hexagons, with some very beautiful examples.  Even more fascinating almost, were the samples you were allowed to touch and turn over to see the old letters used as templates with their beautiful script writing on the reverse.  They still haven't listened to me, you still can't even purchase postcards of the quilts.  Anyway, here is another EPP quilt from elsewhere in the festival, so there!

Last but not least, don't you just love this quilt top?  This was hanging on the stand of Eternal Maker and if my memory serves me correctly, the pattern is by Elizabeth Hartman.  Foxy love!

It's true.  Even at the Festival of Quilts, awash with row after row of stands selling fat quarter after fat quarter of modern fabric, I managed to dig out some vintage barkcloth.


Monday, 1 September 2014

And They Call it Cushion Love

Hello folks.  Happy September!  It's been a long time since I've managed to drop by my blog but it has been a very busy Summer for us all.  I hope you've all had many fun times.  The Munchkin is back at school today and so here I am, back at my table in the Den and ready to share some of the Summer's adventures.

The days have definitely turned Autumnal already.  It feels too soon for me, dedicated lover of Spring and Summer that I am, but the imminence of a new season always brings with it a hint of excitement, I think.  Luckily, the descent from Summer is eased by the re-apperance of some of my beloved roses.  Scented and blowsy with their many petals, these are all David Austin varieties I have planted in the garden here (I think I had seventeen types at last count).  This final flush always seems so precious.

I've been able to spend quite a bit of time crafting outside.   It always forces me to sit awhile, enjoy some peace and quiet (neighbours permitting!) and indulge in some hand work.  I've become a little bit in love with yet another raft of vintage fabrics recently.  A little different from my first loves, those fabulous florals of the forties, these are of a more delicate and faded nature.  Yes, they might well be flowery (old loves die hard) but they might also include ticking and gingham.  They might well be French but there will be some soft English eiderdown fabrics in there too.  Delicious!

Hexys were my starting point.  I always love doing these, it's such a portable hobby, easy to pick up and put down, never an excuse not to have a bit of craftiness with you.  

I've taken it about here and there.  It went to Birmingham for the Festival of Quilts and of course, it went to Crafty Wednesday at Stag and Bow.  I have now finished two panels which are going to be the fronts of cushion covers.  I have a special spot in mind for them.  All shall be revealed in good time!  I am now missing this hand sewing project (though I have many more, it's true), maybe a larger piece is in the offing.

There have been lots of lovely outings over the Summer, of course. The other weekend, the Munchkin had gone off to Scout camp so the Mr and I found ourselves heading for an old favourite haunt in Sussex: Lewes.  It is a town which has everything really.  Lovely old buildings, fabulous foodie places to eat and lots of moochy vintage and antiques shops (not to mention a fabric and patchworking supplies shop).  It's not as good as Bridders but it's up there!

We parked up and strolled through the charity shop nearby, a little hidden and tucked away behind the main street.  We were lucky to strike gold right away.  From my childhood, I remember my paternal grandfather's house in the Cheshire countryside, it was a cottage in a converted old stables.  His wife had great taste and the interior was dreamy; I can see it in detail to this day (though he, and indeed she,  died long since and I haven't visited for a long while).  They had a beautiful antique full size dappled rocking horse on the landing.  I loved it and always coveted it (sadly not to be).  There's just something about rocking horses.  So I could not resist bringing this little old fellow home.  I love his faded paint, his soft woodwork, worn with the little hands and feet of many generations.  He is of course, dappled, too.

He won't stay here in front of the fireplace but until the fire is lit, that's where Dobbin is resting for now.

So, stitchy stuff.  Oh, there's been a fair bit of stitchy stuff going on here, it has to be said.  At this year's Festival of Quilts last month, (another post to be caught up on there), I treated myself to a book I'd been after for a while from the stand of Cowslip Workshops.  I had met the book's writer, and indeed owner of Cowslip Workshops, on previous occasions and so I came home with a bundle of fabrics and Jo Colwill's book "Cushions and Quilts".  

There was a particular project I'd wanted to do since seeing her book at the festival the year before.  Let's get to it, then.  I patchworked the front following the digram in the book, though I used my own fabrics and in the end, I used vintage fabrics from my stash rather than new ones (except the linen edging).

I had more work to do to the front, somewhat more tricky, which involved appliqueing some flowers then free motion quilting them.  It was the first time I had used Jenny Janome for FMQ but she coped really well and I was pleased with the outcome.  I then set about some hand embroidery but I was a little hampered by the Furry Inspector's need to sleep on the job!

Before long though, I had brought the various pieces together, including the unusual fastening, and it was finished.

My appetite well and duly whetted, there was a second project I was just dying to get my teeth into.  It was the cushion on the cover, a yummy mix of ticking squares and appliqued hearts.

The background was easy enough, just a matter of cutting those squares with the lines of the ticking straight, piecing them together and bordering with linen.  I managed to scrounge sixteen different ticking squares from stash.

Then it got a little more tricky.  Oh yes, I had fun choosing the vintage fabrics for the hearts but then it was time to applique them. Fiddly little...  I've done applique successfully before but the method suggested in the back of the book was very different and being a good girl who always does the right thing, I decided I should give it a go.  You never know what you might learn and all that.   Oh my.  Much as I love the finished look of this cushion, I did not get on with the applique method.  I felt it was unnecessarily hard and fussy and there are easier ways to get a more perfect finish.  Each to their own of course, but I'll be sticking to my own way with a bit of freezer paper.

Soon, it became a little more restful.  Time for feet up in front of the box and a spot of hand quilting.

These projects seem to have gone very well with the time of year, I think.  Along with the soft faded stitchy stuff in the sitting room, the kitchen has been filled with delicious smells from stewing apples (we are completely inundated with apples in the garden this year) along with wild blackberries made into a crumble.  I used up some leftover roasted rib of beef in a beef and ale pie with a puff pastry topping.  Oh my.  Heavenly.  Comfort food at its very best.

Before long, cushion number two was completed.  I mourned having finished it (not the applique, ha ha!)

The other Friday, that being ta-dah day, we were blessed with some gorgeous late afternoon sunshine so out into the garden I headed, under the boughs of the old apple tree.

The cushion has a more unusual welted design which was not difficult, if a little fiddly.  I used a contrasting pink gingham heavy cotton fabric for the side panels.  I also inserted a zip into the bottom edge for ease of laundering.  I love the look of the "pie crust" edging, again not hard but time consuming.  That's alright though, isn't it?  It's good to take a little time over things.

I love, love, love these cushions!

To top off a perfectly productive week, Mr HenHouse appeared home from work and just happened to have found a bottle of something interesting in the fridge!  

Chin, chin. Xxx