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Friday, 24 December 2010

Unexpected finds

On the way home from visiting my parents-in-law in Norfolk yesterday, we popped in to a little antiques centre in Old Hunstanton to see if I could find a last minute gift for my mum. She wanted an old blue and white jug of a particular height and I hadn't been able to source one anywhere.

Success! There was just one sweet old Spode jug sitting on top of a little dresser. And just below it, these three lovely old tins. I cannot resist a vintage tin, especially one with lettering. So they came home with me too. The middle one is a Mazawattee tea tin, and it has a double lid with a tiny old handle to keep the tea leaves dry. £7 well spent.

Now the house is full of quiet preparation. Stuffing is being made, final presents wrapped, and animal hutches cleaned out so their occupants will have a comfortable day tomorrow.

Happy Christmas!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

White world

This was the scene in the field behind our house yesterday. The sun came through for an hour or so, and everything sparkled. The frozen berries were amazing. This is just frost, we didn't get any snow until last night. This morning, there is a thin covering, and more on its way.

Festive views around the house

There is a pretty light coming in through the windows this morning. I couldn't see the promised eclipse (too far south). It sounds as if it was beautiful. Blood red light over a white world.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Puffin Post

My mum never throws anything away. Just recently, she passed me a stash of old magazines that triggered some very fond memories. Puffin Post was a quarterly magazine that played a huge part in my childhood. I loved reading, making things and drawing, and this publication combined all three. It was part of a club: you joined up and received a badge, and four magazines a year.

I must have been about eight when I first joined and my enthusiasm for it lasted until I was at least 15 (I wasn't very streetwise!). My aim was to get my name into the magazine, by winning a competition or having a poem published. I managed both eventually, although I seem to recall that I tried endless times!  I still have the collection of Puffin books that I won as my prize.  

Reading the magazines now, I am struck by how equally children were addressed. The tone is never patronising: I suppose now it might even be considered too strait-laced. But to me it is note perfect. I don't think it's just nostalgia, either. The design, though of its time, is incredibly innovative.

I am dying to read a new book by Valerie Grove, which is all about the founder of the Puffin Club and Puffin Post, publisher Kaye Webb. So Much to Tell is at the top of my Christmas reading list.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010


An empty house, a day off and the perfect opportunity to do some party baking and decorating.....
cheese straws, cranberry and chocolate mini muffins and crumble topped mince pies.

Sunday, 12 December 2010


A new cardigan in a pretty bag.....
Candy canes in pinks and greens from Poundstretcher
A plump Nordic fir Christmas tree waiting to go up

Baking and preparations underway for a small party next weekend...
And a vintage Christmas card wreath hanging up (idea from December Country Living).

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Beautiful baubles

Yesterday I met up with a friend in my nearest town to do a Christmas present exchange. She travelled a long way to see me and I was very grateful. She was keen to see my favourite charity shops, and we had fun trawling through and reminiscing about the clothes we used to buy at Oxfam in our student days. We'd rush home with our finds, wash them and steam them by our electric bar fires (probably very dangerous, I am sure our shared house was lethal) before going off clubbing.
We didn't find any clothes that we thought we could get away with now, but I did scout these beautiful vintage Christmas baubles for £2.95. The box has an old Tesco sticker and 4/11 stamped on it.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Cotton and lace

There is a beautiful light in the house today reflecting from the snow outside. But, boy, is it cold out there!
I love my vintage linens. My brother lives near an auction house in the north of England, and sometimes I get him to put a low 'pot luck' bid on a box of tablecloths and traycloths for me. He tries to choose ones he thinks I will like, although as he is the first to point out, he is no expert. I tell him that I don't mind what I get. I just love sorting through it all, and there is always something good inside, even if it isn't in perfect condition.
I don't always get lucky because I keep my bids quite low. But I've had some lovely surprises in the past.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

On display

Less is more when it comes to displaying collections, but I do find it hard to apply this rule. I am always rotating my collection of tins: I love this current combination.

Last night, with an icy wind howling around our badly insulated front door, I set to work and made a draught excluder from some of the fabrics that have been sitting in my materials pile. Creeping around the house in the small hours, as I often do at the moment, I am sure that it made all the difference.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Local magazine

One of my jobs is editing a local magazine called Nene Valley Living. It's a free title, but I try very hard to make it an interesting read, not just an advertising vehicle, with lots of original articles by local journalists about all sorts of subjects. Perhaps my favourite aspect of the job is commissioning the covers. I am so pleased with our Christmas issue, which was designed and painted by a local artist called Sam Purcell.

I am also lucky to work with a couple of great photographers in my area. Lesley Anne Churchill and Dave Phillips have both produced some amazing shots over the last year. And we do it all on a shoestring budget!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Embroidery treasures

I am fascinated by these three little bookmarks. They are from the 1930s and backed with apple green linen. I look around at the tacky high street Christmas stock and then think about these....I know that life was hard in the 1930s, and people were not generally sitting by the fire creating beautiful things, but I do experience a little surge of nostalgia when I see such amazing work.

Something else that made me happy today - my pink hyacinth is in flower!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Old bottles

I think these are colours for retouching photos. I love the bottles and the names of the colours. They are always inexpensive to buy and easy to find at second hand shops and antiques fairs.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Button tins

A button tin is a very great thing. Finding one at a charity shop (rare), car boot sale (possible) or antiques fair (quite likely) is a happy moment.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Suitcase rescue

I do love vintage suitcases, and I usually spot them at auctions or car boot sales. Last year, I bought a couple that were in need of help, thinking that I could easily get them mended. Wrong. It's incredibly hard to find a traditional cobbler who can do repairs, at least in my area. After lots of sleuthing, I finally found someone who said he could have a handle made for my lovely golden brown suitcase, and I collected it yesterday. It is hand stitched and very sturdy (thank you Shoecraft of Oakham!). It was also £28, a fair price for craftsmanship, but it may mean that I won't be rescuing many more waifs and strays. One very inexpensive tip,however, is to line the cases with vintage floral fabric. I've done this many times and it looks beautiful.

I have just returned from a traditional jumble sale in my local village hall. I have not been to a jumble sale for many years and it took me back to my teenage days, when I loved to root through the clothes and kit myself out. It was at a jumble that I found my prized white Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, a major plank in the foundation of my 70s wardrobe. Happy days.

I am always telling my sons about customising clothes and blending vintage and high street and they look at me kindly before heading off to Superdry. Anyway, this was a fantastic sale: I picked up two cashmere sweaters (love old cashmere) and almost passed out with joy when I noticed a Margaret Howell shirt, plain white with silk cuffs and collar hanging on a rail. £1 only.

I added some wonderful old Puffin books to add to my collection of 1960s titles, a Liberty print scarf and two enamel candlesticks, plus some pretty floral china.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Christmas makes

Once a month when my deadlines are finished, I have a day to recover. I usually go somewhere for a wander, but I am not feeling too well at the moment, so I've holed up in my study and started making some Christmassy things.

I buy the labels in bulk from ebay, and that's also where I found these lovely wooden bird shapes. They worked out at just 25p each. I was going to embellish them, but I decided that I quite like them plain and simple instead.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

An auction find...

Last year, I found this amazing textile at a local auction. It is like a huge shawl, embroidered silk with fringing to the edges. It has lots of patches and some holes, but I fell totally in love with the colours. I couldn't stay to bid for it, so I left a price, and I was so excited when the phone rang to say that I had been successful.
I don't have it on display, as I don't want a teenage boy landing on it, so it just comes out from time to time to be admired.

I saw something quite similar in a new book that I've just acquired: Romantic Style by Selina Lake. I highly recommend this if you enjoy a bit of prettiness in your interiors. It has some sumptuous photos, just the thing for cheering up a dark and cold autumn afternoon.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

This week's find

I found this platter at the hospice shop this week. It looks a little bit festive, and a little bit Scandi, so I had to have it.

Another day, another blanket

My fondness for vintage eiderdowns has been overtaken by a penchant for blankets. This one is new, not vintage, and it was produced and woven in Wales. I love the candy colours. While I wouldn't mind if I never saw another cupcake again, I continue to covet, collect and hoard tea cups and saucers. This one is so thin, it's almost transparent, and I love the flower detail inside the rim.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Vintage sewing jars

I made six of these sewing jars today using an idea from the Ideal Home Christmas magazine. Vintage fabric and wadding makes a pincushion for the top of the jar, which I then filled with sewing items from my large stash of goodies. Over the summer I looked for wooden cotton reels, lace, trims and buttons at car boot sales and it was time to raid the hoard. I got the jars from Dunelm, £1.99 each, and the wadding was 99p for a metre. With a quiet house, empty of boys, and just Radio 4 for company, it was great to get down to some making at last. 

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Vintage Christmas cards

I loved these vintage books as a Christmas card from the National Trust shop, £4.95 for eight.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

A day in Cambridge

An autumn day in Cambridge....the high street is mainstream, but off the beaten track, you can find plenty of quirky shops and beautiful buildings, of course.
I loved this contemporary craft shop, full of makers from the UK, and many from the Cambridge area.
Highlights were Angie Lewin cushion covers, Helen Martino's Kiss Pots, and Katrin Moye ceramics.
CallyCo is another great independent store with fabrics, buttons and plenty of haberdashery. Fabric prices are excellent, with natural, thick nubbly linen for around £16 a metre (you can see it above, next to the red patterned fabric). There is a branch of CallyCo in my nearest town, Stamford, in Lincolnshire, too. The shop is beautifully accessorised with vintage fixtures and fittings.

Thursday, 28 October 2010


This morning's post delivered two beautiful fabric swatches from Sarah Hardaker Ltd. This fabric is printed on 100 per cent linen. I discovered it last year and saved hard to buy enough to cover an armchair in the olive green colour. Now I am ready to do a second one, and I am going for a dusty rose colour. Sarah Hardaker is a small British company and the fabrics are really beautiful. Find more info at .

I won't be making the slipcover myself - sadly, my skills with the sewing machine extend only to going in straight lines - so to compensate, I got busy with my staplegun last night and covered an old stool with a fabric remnant from the last chair. I have been meaning to do this for so long, and it was great to get down to it at last. The results don't bear close scrutiny (you can see a brass tack that I couldn't quite conceal under my trim), but it was really satisfying and the only cost was £4.99 for a pot of Copydex glue...
I know everyone is going Fifties and retro in their interiors now, but I still have a great fondness for these sludgy pastel colours and polka dots.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Persephone diary

I first discovered Persephone Books last year, and I visited their shop in Lamb's Conduit Street, London shortly afterwards. It is a beautiful small space, a little away from the beaten track, with rows of elegant pearl grey spines of books written by lesser known or forgotten female authors. Each book has a 'fabric' endpaper at the front and back, using beautiful period textiles, many of which were designed by anonymous women designers.
This diary caught my eye recently. The Persephone Ninety (so called because the company now has 90 endpapers in various patterns). It costs £10, or three for £27, plus post and packing from You can find the shop at  59 Lamb's Conduit Street, London WC1N 3NB.