The problem with having about 40 ongoing projects is finding the time to document them all, something i enjoy doing here for interested others to but also as a kind of ledger of my (at times frenetic) activity. I thought, maybe if i group them by time, my blog output might improve. So here’s what springs has brought to The Gardens.
I bought this antique footstool at my first auction experience in Bo’ness. I’d say it was a classic first time buyer’s piece – paid too much, not in great nick, and sort of regretted since. However in Hailes Street it worked well as a wee perch for little people if they had a TV breakfast at the coffee table. Sadly the fine beadwork didn’t stand the test of time, and Kath and I spent more time hoovering them up than possibility benefitting from them through decorative appreciation and foot support. The new living room here appears to be moving in a pink direction so i decided to reupholster it and cover up the tired red.
I realised that this fabric is another Sanderson print, for which i seem to possess a homing device. I purchased a black binbag-full of it at a Stockbridge ‘colonies’ sale for £1, not knowing it was high quality stuff which had originally been made into a sofa slipcover. I combined it with some pink velvet, and linen piping. Then its a simple matter of attaching it on using a staple gun (strictly speaking, not an upholstery technique, but a great shortcut.) The stool works well as a mate for the two window chairs.
Sticking with Sanderson, my vision for the living room, with it’s wonderful new sofa.com, is to create a laid-back but traditional floral feel. Here’s another Sanderson remnant i picked up in a charity shop.
Yes, i know there are too many cushions already, but i do have a longstanding penchant which sadly cannot be assuaged by mere logic alone.
Not satisfied, I made another one with the leftovers from the footstool.
I make most of these kinds of things at sewing night on Mondays with Kath. We used to do it at Hailes Street and have worked, at times against the odds, to keep it a regular commitment.
Vintage maps are fast becoming the must-have decorative item these days. Lucky for me, my husband loves maps so this latest wee project is something we can both enjoy. I found this 1961 map of Northern Ireland in a lesser visited but very delightful charity shop in Leith called St. Columba’s, where my pal Jules used to find all sorts of envy-inducing things when she lived nearby as few years ago. I handed over my 50p (everything is 50p…apart from on that day this rare Piquoware kettle at £65, which I unwillingly resisted). The frame came from the salvage yard, an ugly gold affair which i reincarnated with a lick of white paint. The map was pretty badly creased so I spray-mounted it onto the board. Whilst Malkie took great pleasure examining the alternative driving roots to the M1 which wasn’t then built, and the source of the River Bann, I admired my £5.50 design piece now adorning the hallway!
The other major work of April was re-arranging the kitchen to accommodate a dining table in the window. After a long but futile search for the usual rickety old victorian, turned leg, pine affair, I happened upon this Ikea offering. Having rid myself of nearly every other gratuitous Ikea piece within the house (apart from the actual kitchen, obviously!), it was with reticence that i went to buy this one. However i reasoned that it was the perfect size, was sturdy, had a mid-century feel, and an interesting bamboo top. One flat-pack later, and we were sunning ourselves at breakfast, feeling quite pleased that sacrificing the beautiful handmade oak shelves originally in their stead to the bedroom had been worth it. I have a couple fo Ercol chairs which bring it more towards the mid-century look. This week i am going to be pushing out the boat and painting the chairs scarlet red. I usually opt for fairly safe greys and whites for furniture painting, but at the risk of an entire house full of French Grey, i’m taking the plunge…
There are two phrases used with reasonable frequency in our house, both of which seem to have particular relevance to this most recent project. For the quick-witted amongst you, the reference in the title relates to a favoured scene in monty python when he begins by saying ‘One day, lad, all this will be yours’, gesturing to the land beyond the window, and the rather pathetic son says….as above.
In addition, round mid-ulster parts one would say ‘You’ve got tickets on yourself’ when attempting to rise above your station. Such was indeed the case when i decided, without prior basic experience or expertise, to make the curtains for our enormous drafty bay window. It pretty much fits with my usual rules of thumb when appraoching any new sewing project, as follows:
1. Choose the most complex level of the project you are embarking upon
2. Don’t seek the careful advice of wise and experienced others, just do a bit of cursory googling
3. Use inadequate equipment eg a wood off-cut to mark out straight lines on your material
4. Take lots of shortcuts so that the project doesn’t drag on and get really boring.
I started out about 4 months ago with choosing the material. I tend to fear spending too much on such a DIY project in case it goes miserably wrong so i economised and bought the material on ebay. A plain colour is the way to go for a novice, no matching up patterns etc. I bought 20 metres of plain un-dyed irish linen, assuming this would work with most furniture (as yet un-purchased for our living room). The lining also came from ebay, and is draft-excluding (in theory).
Probably the most tricky bit is cutting out. In fact there’s very little complex sewing involved, just straight lines to piece together all the sections, and straight lines to attach the heading tape. Each cut piece needs to be near enough a perfect rectangle, so that when sewn together it all lines up in one big square. Sadly straight lines aren’t my forte but I seemed to get away with it and only ending up with one piece far too short, but that’s easily remedied.
Fast forward a few months, after the arduous process of trying to get a decent curtain rail attached to crumbly walls, and the curtains have been hung! Aside from practical issues in getting them to slide along the pole (another story), i managed to achieve a number of key objectives, namely
1. They cover the window panes
2. They are long enough
3. They hang from the hooks without falling off
4. They meet in the middle.
For a beginner’s project, i feel this is a reasonable achievement of goals. But i’m not sure that would tempt me to undertake such a mad project again! Some pictures so you can decide for yourself….
So we had a fire. In our bedroom. Which meant 2 things. 1: A valid excuse to expedite its re-decoration, just 1 day after the kitchen was finished. And 2: The need to find a new way to clear the smell of little sleeping people doing an innocent poop in their nappy, that does not involve tea lights set in precarious proximity of the sheets. Thankfully, the little person in question was sound asleep in her own bed by the time the fire got going. We managed to limit the damage to just the bed and surrounding items, by dragging the burning stuff outdoors. (“That front door just paid for itself”). Most things were replaceable but perhaps the most annoying loss was this huge and luxurious bedspread which i picked up years ago and now can’t replace.
So i decided to try and salvage it by making things from what was reasonably left. This turned out quite well in the end, as i had been looking for inspiration for our large window and fancied a long fabric seat to go with the plethora of scatter cushions. I have a weird sensory sensitivity to foam (makes me shiver!) so i didn’t fancy the thought of having to handle a big wad for the project. I was therefore pleased to find an old window seat at the salvage yard and stripped off the cover to reveal this cotton-covered foam piece.
A word about piping. For most projects i try and convince myself its ok to skip piping, owing to the time involved in making it, and then having to fiddle around with getting it all in place and sewing through huge wads of fabric layers. But for a window cushion i reckon its pretty indispensable, so i made some out of an old skirt lining in a similar shade.Here we are with the basic shape taking form. Adding a zip somewhere is a good idea so that you can turn it all inside out at the end without having to do a magic trick. Also good for washing it at some point.Here it is in situ, alongside all its other little cushion friends.The middle turquoise one was a pleasing find, its a vintage William Morris print for Sanderson. The blue floral ones are from a (more recent) Sanderson remnant, and the grey floral is an Ikea fabric. Sadly this pic highlights my wonky piping.
The window seat used about a quarter of the fabric, so i decided to motor on and make some bolster cushions too. I’ve made them before but obviously had forgotten how annoying they are to make. After one failed attempt, i worked out the basics. This time, to cut a corner (i love cutting corners, especially in sewing, which is overall quite a time-consuming pursuit), i cut off the edging to use as piping.Turned out quite well in the end!
With the flat in turmoil owing to the kitchen refit during december, the elements weren’t conducive to a handmade christmas. So it was that for the first year in a long time, we had no tree, no wreath, no mark of christmas cheer in the flat. In fact, we were lucky to get a cup of tea at home for about 3 weeks. However it wouldn’t quite be christmas for me without a few crafty presents for family. Following the success of my recent hot water bottle covers, i couldn’t resist doing the same for the wider Calvert hot-water-bottle appreciation team. Helen and my mother-in-law were the recipients of these two new designs.
This one was a welcome opportunity to use some of my Liberty fabric, which is in short supply but getting a bit sad being as yet un-used in any project thus far. Its too good! The mustard velvet was picked up in a charity shop in York, which i then quilted. The labels are parcel tags printed with stampers from one of my favourite stationery companies, Cavalllini & Co. This one I gave to my mother-in-law. The fabric is from John Lewis, and finished off with a vintage button.
My niece (and namesake) Lucia loves to bake. I came up with this ridiculously easy apron design, involving the corner of a vintage embroidered tablecloth. Fast track to making one look amazing at embroidery, yet having no idea how to, or indeed inclination to, actually embroider.
I did do the text in freehand embroidery on the machine. Easy when you have the special attachment.
Pity Lucia left her apron at home on New year’s eve when we made homemade pizzas. She had to make do with mummy’s geniously improvised Tesco bag. I guess the ‘danger of suffocation’ issue was not so much of a problem with holes for little girl’s heads!
Over the years i have built up a reasonable sewing repertoire of quilts, bags, organisers and other handy household items. However when it comes to one simple aspect of sewing, namely doing so in a long, straight line, i wouldn’t say i am particularly accomplished. Its the tedium of measuring and marking out that doesn’t appeal. So where possible, i cut straight lines by using existing selvedges to roughly guide me, and other contraban methods for cutting perpendicularly, where squares or rectangles are required. So, if i had known how many straight lines would need cut and sewn, and how integral this would be to the functionality of the item, i might not have embarked upon my most recent project, a large roman blind for the guest room.
When doing an unfamiliar project, i try not to buy new material for it in case its a complete disaster. The only suitable material i had in terms of size, weight and stye had previously been made into a quilt. Not a very good quilt though, so i was happy to pull it apart again, although i did have to sew a few odds and ends together in order to have a large enough piece for the main body of the blind.
I dug out various bits of plain white cotton and stitched them all together to make the backing. I used this tutorial for the instructions, and was glad i did as it’s not a very intuitive project. Hurdle number one is making the basic blind fit the window. This occurred almost certainly by chance on this occasion – as stated this kind of thing is not my forte. Then, i made casings for the dowels. Next comes the tricky bit…marking out where the casings go. So not only does each casing need to be sewn on straight as a die, to accomodate the dowel, but also horizontal as [other suitable simile] so that the drawstring mechanism works. Marking chalk and a long piece of wood are essential here.
The next stage is attaching the fabric onto the top wood support. I used a staple gun but you could attach it with velcro too.I then realised i needed blind rings and decent string so there was a small interlude in proceedings whilst ebay was consulted. The rings need to be sewn by hand, at least 3 per dowel, which is a bit arduous (i hate hand sewing), then eye hooks are aligned with each row of rings and attached to the top wood piece. Buying individual wooden dowels tends to push the price up, so instead i used plastic-coated bamboo from Homebase at £5 for the lot. And then, the moment of truth….
.…and the bit where i realised how essential the measuring accuracy was. If you look closely, you will note that the bottom dowel is at an angle to the rest of them. This is because of my school-boy error whereby i measured each strip against the one above thus losing around 4 cm by the bottom end of the blind. So when pulled up it all looks a bit wonky.
Furthermore, though the fabric looked quite heavy, as you can see it definitely is a long way from black-out!
On the up side, when all bunched up it looks pretty good and the layering turns out to be quite forgiving of all my inaccuracies.
After a few months of living in our new place, we can definitely say that warmth is a slight issue. Being ground floor, with huge single-glazed windows, draughty doors and little else in the way of reasonable insulation, makes for a chilly environment. On the up-side, we have been embracing nostalgia and getting back into good old hot water bottles. According to a reliable source, usage in general is on the increase in Britain, with subsequent escalation of scalding incidents. However, apparently hot water bottles are still not very ‘fashionable’.
But someone at the Guardian makes an excellent case for the bottle: “With an adequate cover (and would you seriously consider a naked rubber bottle?), it keeps you warm into the small hours. And then there is the attendant ritual of decanting a boiled kettle; lightly burping the bottle, and screwing the cap reassuringly tight. To do this is to feel somehow parental, wise – as if providing for your inner child.”
In other trivia news, we once had a guest staying at Hailes Street who was in great need of a bottie. After an earnest moonlight search, she came across my expanded collection of antique ceramic ones and subsequently used one in her bed. I think it was an anguished night’s sleep, in fear of a sudden cracking or leakage drama. As i recall, none such event occurred, and many thanks to Bre for testing it out. I had always wondered…..
My sister-in-law Helen is a knitting extraordinaire, and made me this lovely cosy cover last year over the christmas holidays.
Meanwhile poor Malkie was having to make do with an inglorious naked bottle for the first few weeks of our hottie revival between the sheets. So i set about designing and making a suitably masculine cover.
The material was originally the reclaimed lining from a very ugly coat. This meant that supply was limited which i have decided was mostly to blame for the phase one error in production which resulted in the top section being too narrow to fit the ‘spout’ of the bottle. As stated before, sewing projects are generally made up as i go along, but this method can have it’s advantages, namely the opportunity for unexpected product improvement. (If you are not into this kind of ad-hoc seamstressing, LIsa Stickley does a nice tutorial here.)
I cut the initial faulty top section off and made a new wider piece complete with lid and fastener. I changed the alignment of the fabric and was able to sew on more binding (which i couldn’t do as planned around the main body edges as it was already a bit too neat-fitting).
I quilted along the lines of the fabric in the main body, and used leftover wadding from some recent patch-working to insulate. The toggle was also salvaged from the original coat, and definitively sets the cover apart as a Malkie item. (Loves a good toggle button, he does.)
So without any particular planning, this project, made entirely from salvaged or left-over materials, turns out to be of practical design, boyish, and surprisingly fit for purpose. Unlike most of my other sewing projects on all 3 counts….
Two things i find difficult to look at – ugly pipes and untidy leads/cables. So this little sink in the WC wasn’t filling me with joy every time i sat down to do the necessary. (Not to mention the awful kitchen taps). Being right in front of the toilet, i was able to sit and study it in some detail since we moved in, in order to figure out the best way to hide the exposed plumbing.
Whilst the room itself was clearly decorated on a cheap and cheerful budget, i really like the white tiles and grey grout – kind of ‘subway’ style. Plus the black and white theme running throughout. I wanted to upgrade the look a bit and figured this would be an ideal place to introduce some Jouy de Toile fabric in similar colours. I found some lovely charcoal grey fabric on ebay and set about designing what i came to discover was called a ‘sink skirt’. With no frame to hang fabric on, i researched stick-on options and came up with this ‘heavy duty’ velcro, which i am told in good faith that once stuck on, it isn’t likely to come off.
All skirts need a bit of ruffle so i dug out some thick black elastic i had tucked away. Im not really sure about sewing elastic so like most of my sewing projects, i was making it up as i went along. Luckily I discovered in time the elastic zig zig setting on the machine which allows the elastic to return to its former state after it has been sewed fully stretched, thus resulting in a pretty row of even ruffle. I decided the black made a nice contrast edging so put it on the front rather than hidden away at the back.
Next i attached some velcro along the ruffle to attach to the sink.
The ‘heavy duty’ velcro goes onto the sink, and hey presto! A fancy sink skirt….
Not satisfied with one sink skirt, i decided to ditch the generic white cupboards and add another skirt in the main bathroom. This fabric off-cut was 50p in charity shop, its got a slight sheen so is nice and waterproof for our steamy bathroom. In time i’ll introduce the fresh green colour a bit more into the room.
Long before the salvage sisters got savvy about good design, our mama was dressing us in Liberty print baby dresses and fitting out our shared bedroom with Liberty wallpaper. Either its in the genes or its classical conditioning, but i am now a huge fan of liberty fabric (who isn’t!?), but rarely indulge in such luxuries. It was a great day last year when i came across 3 meters of retro Liberty fabric in a wee rural charity shop for a few pounds, but such events are of course rare so the occasional splashing out on stunning fabric is ok in my book. Just browsing the London shop itself is an experience, slowly unfurling swathes of soft fabric and dreaming about the most suitable project, or fantasising about a sofa stacked with mounds of Liberty cushions…
This year i was given a sewing book from my secret santa (thanks ryan), a collection of Liberty’s very own in-house sewing projects. Its full of lovely illustrations and uses a variety of prints and textures. It is little bit exacting for my style (i never usually measure anything) but i am hopeful i can learn a trick or two about the avantages of becoming more precise and learning how to use a simple pattern.
So here is completed project number one. Its a quilted wash bag. Whilst i managed to stick to the measurements and the pattern, i did take a liberty (ha ha) with some aspects including the quilting, also the style of fabric is cotton rather than a stiff canvas as was recommended. The fabric is in fact a vintage Laura Ashley print, salvaged from an enormous jumpsuit i found in some charity shop sale rail (you know its bad when you shop from charity shop sale rails).
When your splashing out on fabric, it is a good idea to make a project initially in more basic fabric so that you make the inevitable mistakes on that first, then move on to the real deal. So here is my chosen fabric for the next attempt, bought in january whilst we were in London for the weekend. Fingers crossed!
I am a big fan of all things tea, and many of my veritable collections relate to tea. So my next magpie moment post is about the ever-expanding collection of tea cosies. With vintage revival in full swing, these linen embroidered types are re-emerging all over the place.
The one on the right was the inspiration that begun the collection, a tea cosy belonging to the original salvager, our lovely mama. These ones are actually a bit too small to be of any actual use…Moving on to some more modern examples, the pink was a recent christmas present, and i made the coffee cosy for my husband last year (now obsolete as he has now transitioned to a Nespresso man from a cafetiere kinda guy).
The floral & tweed one was a gift from a fellow sewing guru. I loved the embroidery scene on the other one – the most recent addition to the collection via the usual route (charity shop).
Some other embroidered examples from the large cosy end of the spectrum.
This little beauty came from an antique shop in New Zealand; we were in need of some warmer conditions for out little teapot in the camper van (not to mention our little selves but that’s another matter). I was delighted to come back and find that it fitted snugly onto my favourite but completely impractical enamel tea pot (3rd degree finger burns after each contact).
The treaty of blogging elevates you to the official position of ‘go-to’ person on your chosen topic!
I got a call from my good friend Vicki lately who needed some Salvaging done, I was her woman!
Her late Grandmother, a prolific seamstress, had an insatiable addiction to haberdashery in all its forms. I have never in my life seen a stash like it, with every description of wool, fabric and fibre imaginable, and for that matter unimaginable! I believe she made almost everything she wore. I would love to see some photos of her in her finery. This lady had an eye for quality, and she makes my hoarding won a minimalists award.
My trustee day tripper Fionna and I set off through the vales of Ards along Strangford Lough, through Balloo to Killinchy. This was to me an uncovered patch in our quilt of scenery here in NI. A grand day out, with beautiful coffee shops along the way, and sheer views over the water here and there.. it feels like you’re driving to the edge of the world.
We came upon our destination, where Alan, Vicki’s dad was clearing out. After the salvager’s excitement of seeing a few remnants and juicy tit bits, we were baffled as roll upon roll of beautiful material, and balls and balls of the finest wool kept appearing.
As many an unconverted salvager would, the builders who were there at the time, were more highly amused and baffled at our delight in filling our car literally to the roof with our ‘treasure’. Much the same as Vicki’s husbands response! Luckily Ivan has given up on noticing my stock-piling.. almost. He uses this skill for the house work too! Hee Hee.
Now, if you have an interest in some remnants, or what to do with rolls of leather.. give me a call, or drop in, it’s looking for a home, there’s only so much my garage can hold. xx