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Thursday, 31 January 2013

Seeing red

It hasn't been an easy week with some recession-related work worries, but instead of getting agitated, I calmed myself down with a little patch working project (still in progress). Before Christmas, I bought a beautiful dolls bed, in brown wood. The aim was to do it up and sell it at one of my sales. The bed came with some very pretty but tattered old bedding, and I think it needs a bit of a lift with a homemade patchwork cover before it finds a new home. I have lots of red scraps, including my new Primark tea towels, and a holey 20p tablecloth that I found at the jumble on Saturday so I had fun chopping some into squares, pinning to paper templates and - my favourite part - arranging the pattern. 

I also have some gorgeous old red bias binding which came in one of the job lots of sewing bits that I can never resist at auctions and car boot sales. I do love the vintage packaging, so it will be a wrench to open it, but I want to use it as it's just such a jolly colour.

I love red, especially an old red. The stripy fabric, above, will be the backing for my small quilt. It's so nice to be using my finds instead of just hoarding....

Next task is to put some wadding inside my quilt and sew on the backing. It's been good to keep my hands busy these last few nights. I'm quite tempted to try a larger cover when this is done, although I do like the rhythm of hand-sewing, so I don't want it to be so large that I have to make it on a machine. And, I think that my sewing is improving  a little...just shows you should never give up. Still, I am glad that I have opted for some soft focus shots here: I haven't yet quite mastered watching TV and making tiny stitches at the same time....


Saturday, 26 January 2013

Saturday vintage

Here is a sight to gladden the eyes. Such a pretty setting in a small, snowy church.

We had more snow in the night, but the sun was shining strongly this morning. I slithered my way along the country lanes. There wasn't much treasure in the jumble sale, but it was so friendly and I found a few bits and pieces. A silver tea spoon and a cute dish:

Some cups and saucers. I thought I wasn't buying any more china? Oh well, I liked the red stripe and thought they might do for a magazine pic at some stage (which is my excuse for everything). The stamp underneath says 22 carat gold. Interesting. 

I'd gone through the local newspaper with a fine tooth comb to track down other sales as I felt in sore need of a vintage fix, and I found another event this afternoon, this time in a church hall and billed as a 'New Year fete'. A lovely old fashioned bric a brac stall laden with things awaited and I found this pretty glass butter dish. 

I am also collecting spring-like things for an Easter magazine cover, so picked up a few bits of primrose and cowslip mis-matched china and a few second hand books.

So that was a very good Saturday.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Easy as ABC...

I never pass up an old ABC book or game if I see one. Here are some I have collected over the years from jumbles, fairs and boot sales. 

I love lino prints and wood cuts in particular. I picked up this little book from my local second hand book shop today. The owner does most of his trading online, but manages to keep his tiny shop going. We usually set the world to rights when I pop in...

I would love to try lino printing, and this little book has some very good and simple instructions, so maybe I will do it this year. 

Does anyone remember these work books from school? I recall them very clearly from the late 1960s. I loved the spelling ones. I remember struggling with the maths version though...probably still would...
Cool typeface.

Could not resist the jolliness of this wooden word game.... 

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Interesting people

At midday, I dropped my son off at school to take his geography A level and went on to a small exhibition in our town museum. It is called Sparkle and Shine, by Paola McClure, and features these amazing soft sculptures. Each one is made from vintage fabrics and second hand clothes. The pieces are not twee, some of them were quite disturbing, and they were all peculiarly expressive.

There were photographs of the artist in her studio in Scotland, its shelves rammed with towering piles of vintage fabric. She commented in the exhibition notes that visitors will often stand for ages and just look at the materials she has collected. Well, I think we can probably all relate to that...
had to switch to my iPhone for the rest of the shots.

Understandably, it was a 'no touching' exhibition, but the sculptures were so tactile, I had to put my hands in my pockets to stop myself from reaching out. 

The last one is great: this is how I feel at the end of the day sometimes.....
A lovely exhibition, and completely free. 

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Brighten my day

Lean pickings from our local charity shops recently, but I did find these tea towels in Primark today. They are a bit garish, and of course I prefer vintage, but I liked the bird motif, and the towel that has a bobble trim.

The small retailers in our area are struggling at the moment. As I'm the editor of a local magazine, I'm talking to them all the time, and I know just how tough it is. The snow isn't helping either (unless you are the purveyor of thermal vests). I do support the little businesses as much as I can, through the magazine, and also by shopping with them. But when you walk into somewhere like Primark, it does make your heart sink for the future of the independent shopkeeper. I salved my conscience for my small textile haul with a visit to the family butcher and a thorough scan of the charity shops. I chanced upon a very pretty cake stand.

It's a two tier one, and although I'm not usually keen on gilt edged china, I do love a strawberry print, and it made me think of summer.

Cold weather wear: forget your Gore-Tex and fleece, I swear by a long, Oxfam tweed overcoat and furry boots to keep me warm. But it struck me today, as I caught sight of myself in a shop window, that whereas I looked quite presentable in out sized wool and Dr Martens when I was in my twenties, I am now starting to resemble a very eccentric old bird ;)

Saturday, 19 January 2013


I haven't yet ventured outside, so no snow pictures. I've been making some old fashioned comfort food instead. These Welsh cakes are a favourite. One thing about old recipes is how incredibly economical they are. A scrap of margarine, some flour, an egg, a little sugar and a few sultanas or oats, and a whole tea table full of treats can be conjured up. These are Welsh cakes:

I use an old Bero recipe, and they are cooked in a frying pan so you don't even need to put the oven on. They last only minutes in our house...

The light is very soft today with so much whiteness outside. 

It is time to put my boots on and get some air.....

Friday, 18 January 2013

I went out to buy firelighters...

And I came back with a
with the stuffing coming out...

Perhaps the snow is making me giddy...

But I really could not resist him. Or the spring flowers from one of the few market stallholders who had braved the weather.

Or this book from Oxfam.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

A touch of magic

It has been a strange, insular kind of week, with the countryside blanketed in snow, and lots of deadlines, so I've been at my desk all the time. Just time to cook a meal, and then both boys are revising for exams (one rather reluctantly), my husband is working in London so he's home late, and the house has been very quiet. If I haven't been helping/nagging youngest, I've been curled up in a chair reading. One childhood book that I go back to a lot is The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. I remember exactly when I first read it, aged about ten, and how captivated I was by the feisty heroine, Maria Merryweather, and her tame white hare, Serena, and dog Wiggins. It is just the most enchanting book, set in a West Country village. I found this copy in a second hand bookshop last week, and althought it is shabby, it has the same cover as the one I remember from my childhood.

The descriptions of food in this book are just amazing. How about this for supper? "There was home made crusty bread, hot onion soup, delicious rabbit stew, baked apples in a silver dish, honey, butter the colour of marigolds, a big blue jug of warm mulled claret and hot roasted chestnuts folded in a napkin."
Or tea? "The table was covered with a checked red and white tablecloth that matched the counterpane, and upon it was set a blue dish full of apples, a yellow jug of milk, a purple plate on which were piled buttered scones, two green plates and two mugs to match."
This started me thinking and I got out my paints last night to recreate some of the scenes using quotes from the book...

And another one:

If you need some escapism, or something light to wile away the snow days, I recommend this sweet book. The descriptions of the West Country are beautiful, too. You'll dream of being in Devon on a sunny summer's day.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Kitchen tales

Marmalade making took place yesterday afternoon. There are no short cuts with marmalade, no gadget that can really cut down on the amount of chopping, skinning and de-pipping that is required, so although it is fiddly, I also find the methodical rhythm of it relaxing. A play on Radio 4, and a quiet house and I was in my element.

I recently interviewed a marmalade making expert for an article. She told me that the Victorians sometimes put rhubarb in their recipe, so as well as oranges and a lemon, I added a small tray of home grown rhubarb that has been languishing in the freezer for longer than it probably should. I spotted this beautiful leaflet in Oxfam on Friday, so I was armed with tips and tricks for a really good batch.

That citrus smell, tangy and a little bit peppery, as the peels are boiling away to soften, is just amazing. My marmalade guru told me that citrus oils are great for alleviating depression. There's no doubt that it is an uplifting aroma and the colour alone is enough to make you want to dance. In terms of thriftiness, this works out at 65p per jar. 
Eight jars labelled and put away (and a big dish of it to eat now). 
I am on a gluten free diet again just now, so my next challenge is to find a recipe for a really delicious loaf to smother with butter and home made marmalade.

Happy Sunday.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Oranges and lemons

I spotted Seville oranges in the shops today. A splash of colour on a grey and foggy market day. Then I started seeing oranges and yellows everywhere.

It's a tiny market in a small town.

I bought some Sevilles, so that means I am making marmalade this weekend.