Sunday, 30 August 2015

Sunday Sevens #2

This is my week in pictures, as part of the excellent 'Sunday Sevens' blog group. This week Christmas came very very early and involved mud, slugs and button-theft.


1. Monday morning didn't start off well at all. Firstly it was dark and rainy, which I don't really mind but I'd dreamt I was on a beach swimming in the ocean and getting a wonderful sun tan, so was a bit miffed. Then the kitchen fitter rang to say he'd double booked himself and would now be starting the kitchen next week! "Righto" I say cheerfully, looking around at the completely emptied kitchen; furniture wrapped in plastic; the bin liner of food we'd emptied out of the fridge; the microwave, kettle and toaster now in the livingroom; the fridge in the dining room; and the three-year-old crying because she wants the fridge back in the kitchen. "Oh right-bloody-bloody-o". So me and my little girly did what we all have to do in these circumstances. We went to a play gym and bounced on a bouncy castle till we were both senselessly joyful. Here's a picture I've entitled 'balmy summer afternoon in Canterbury'.

2. Since the weather continued to be dismal, me and my little girly decided to go on a mud walk. This involves wellies, old clothes and raincoats, and tramping through the countryside which surrounds our house, finding new footpaths. Along the way we played three games. The first is called 'which animal did that poo - rabbit, sheep, dog or horse'. Then there's the famous 'stuck welly, wobble over, muddy sock, muddy bum', and finally 'slug on a stick', which involves a slug-based contestant being balanced on a stick all the way home... into the home... left on a window sill... and forgotten about. Here's a picture of our slug friend who was eventually returned to his loving family with a signed autograph and a consolation prize.

3. I have been going on and on and on about buttons this week, and this has meant that my little girly now desperately wants her own buttons. It started when I sorted through my three precious boxes of buttons for photographs to go on a blog post I was writing (Beautiful buttons). She obviously wanted to play with them, lose them, tread on them and throw them around. So I said "sorry darling, these are mummy's buttons" and quickly hid them. Ever since then she has been demanding her own collection, and so this week I bought a packet of craft buttons from The Range. She loves them, thank goodness. And now I can relax and hide my three boxes very high up, so she doesn't get even a whiff of my lovely ones. Looking through her 'collection' I did see some I quite like, but....... when she's asleep I'll get them.

4. The passion flower (Passiflora) which grows around our front door, has gone crazy recently and is flowering so beautifully. I really love it. It is a brave survivor. Within days of moving into our house (eight years ago) my hubby had managed to accidentally chop it at the root, so for years we didn't see it. Then suddenly it seemed to sprout up everywhere, including over our neighbours front door too. Now it's beautiful and I love the flowers so much. It produces bright orange fruit, which you can eat apparently. We've not tried to eat any yet, we're not that brave.

5. This week I broke a world record I think. I bought the earliest Christmas present ever! It's true, I bought my mum a sewing machine. I can write this and not have to worry about spoiling her surprise, because: a) She was with me at the time and demanded that she be given it now and not have to wait until December, and b) She doesn't read this blog because "I don't understand all this blogging stuff". So we went to Hobbycraft to get it. My daughter loves that shop and, like a child in a sweet shop, had filled up a pot full of beads before we could shout "not the BIG pot, get a SMALL one". 

6. My lovely talented friend Wendy (who writes an amazing blog: - check it out) not only made a delicious lemon drizzle cake when we visited her this week, but also gave my daughter three lovely presents; a Melissa and Doug sticker book, a flower press and a wooden puzzle. My daughter loves them all, especially the flower press. I, on the other hand, have not been able to leave the wooden puzzle alone. It is fascinating. I had one similar as a child, and there is something fabulous about making patterns and getting them to fit in the wooden square. Love it. I have honestly spent hours playing with this, so thanks Wendy for MY toy.

7. A week doesn't go by without a visit to The Sewing Shop in Sun Street, Canterbury. I had planned to just take my mum so she could choose some patterns (to get her going on her sewing machine... maybe she can make me a christmas present) but then I spied the Christmas fabrics. My daughter chose this one, so I can make her a dress for Christmas. There was a lovely bauble pattern, which I wanted to buy, but got shouted down by a three year old who insisted she wanted the tree one. Still a good choice, I think. I think she's still mad that I've hijacked her button collection and wooden toy! Oops!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Beautiful buttons

Charmed by an old man in Portobello Road Market, taken pity on by an old lady in Hythe and abandoned by my mother in London... who knew button collecting could be so eventful. 

Like many people who like fabric and sewing, I love buttons. I have a button addiction. I have been collecting antique and vintage buttons for quite a while now. In fact, about ten years ago I had to sit myself down in a quiet room and promise myself that I would no longer spend hundreds of pounds on bloody buttons. I had become addicted to buying them. I would go to an antique market, spend a small fortune, and come home with a tiny bag containing six small buttons. Thinking about it now, I've had to have similar talks with myself throughout my life. When I was eleven, I had to stop myself spending all my pocket money on ribbons; in my teens it was records; in my twenties - old cigarette tins; in my early thirties - buttons; in my late thirties - tea cups; and in my forties it will probably be sewing patterns, wooden boxes and fabric. 

I have benefitted from my buying obsessions though - I have a good record collection, a stash of beautiful tins to store bits and bobs in, and best of all a lovely lovely lovely collection of buttons. I used to keep my buttons in carefully organised drawers but, since having a child, they're now stashed in various boxes. Some are lost in the loft and some I have given away, but there are three boxes I keep safe. These boxes store my loveliest buttons. 

Colourful glass buttons are my favourite, and they're also the reason why I started collecting in the first place. There used to be a button stall at the Malthouse in Hythe run by two lovely old ladies. They used to give customers a tray to sort the buttons on, and if you didn't use a tray you'd get a telling off. I was always in trouble. I used to go every Friday in my lunch break and come back with a carrier bag full of lovely buttons. They were mainly plastic ones from the 50s, 60s and 70s, but sometimes when I got home I'd find that the old lady had popped some colourful glass buttons into my bag. She would say "there's a few in there you might like as well" and then charge me 50p. It was exciting sorting through them all. The treasures were the glass ones like these (pictured below). 

The black glass buttons (pictured below) also came from the Malthouse stall. These are Victorian imitation-jet buttons. Queen Victoria stared the trend for black buttons due to the fact she spent most of her life mourning for her husband. The rich wore jet buttons, whilst the poor used these black glass imitations. I love them, and love the old lady on the stall for giving them to me. 

As my button addiction took hold I started going to every antique fair going. Detling's Collectors Fair used to be the best one for buttons. I used to spend five hours searching every stall, and come home elated. These are some of my early finds - teeny tiny buttons, some enamel, some glass and some embroidered. I love tiny buttons. I think the embroidered ones are from garter belts for stockings*. 

The best stall at Detling was run by a really nice lady who sold everything to do with sewing. There were boxes filled with knitting needles, lace, bias binding, cotton, needles and sewing accessories. In the middle of the stall was a large table with boxes and boxes of buttons. She gradually got to recognise me, probably because I spent a fortune. She would tell me about her latest house clearing adventures, and bring out some amazing buttons which I couldn't afford. It was on this stall that I found, amongst other things, the lovely celluloid buttons, which are apparently highly flammable. I also found the plastic children's buttons, which include Muffin the Mule from 50s TV. 

The most expensive buttons I ever bought are the Japanese enamel and satsuma buttons (pictured below), and I'm not sure what the other one is but it looks old and also cost a fair bit. These were the buttons that made me quit collecting because it was getting expensive. I love them now, but I really regretted buying them at the time. I just couldn't help myself. I bought the one with cranes on at an antique fair at The Grand in Folkestone, and have avoided that stall holder at all costs since then. The others are from a tiny corner stall at Portobello Road Market in London. I think I was so charmed by the little old man who sold them that I was blinded by the moment and went mad. I only went to his stall once and the abiding memory I have of the stall is losing my mother in the huge crowds. I had spent so long at the old man's stall that she got bored and wandered off. I found her an hour later feeding her own addiction - jewellery shopping. When we go to Portobello Road Market now we have set rules - no wandering off, no loitering at a stall. 

As I made my way around every stall in the south east, I gradually built up my collection. Here are some of the many buttons I found... 

And here's a picture of my button collection when I didn't have anything else to think about. This picture was taken about eight years ago, and I still can't believe I organised them all like this. Cor blimey, I had so much time on my hands. 

My collection of buttons has meant that I never have to buy new buttons for any sewing projects. Unfortunately, I love them so much that it's quite a sacrifice to me to use them on a piece of clothing. I once sewed vintage glass buttons on a cardigan I bought. When the cardigan wore out, I threw it away and forgot about the buttons! Grrr... I still miss those lovely buttons. In fact all this talk of buttons makes me want to go to an antique fair... noooooo!

*I might be wrong on this point, let me know if I am. 

Have you got a passion for buttons? Do you have any of the buttons I have? Do you know the history of some of the buttons pictured. Let me know won't you, I really would love to hear from you.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Sunday Sevens - #1

I love reading everyone's Sunday Sevens (a quick pictorial round-up of a blogger's week) and it's exciting to now be apart of it. So here's my first post - a soggy week packed with lots of crafting, procrastination, emptying kitchen cupboards and a date with a star-struck child and a famous tiger.

1. It's been raining most of the week here in Canterbury. This is the view from the car when we went to the beach in Sandgate. A familiar British summer beach scene. Soggy and miserable outside the car, lots of singing and laughing inside the car... then, lots of ice cream in the car, and then the stickiest three-year-old you have EVER seen in a car... and then the stickiest parent you have EVER seen ransacking the car for illusive wet wipes.

2. I've been trying to fit in some embroidery, to finish off the dress I'm making for my little girl. So when she fell asleep in the car on the way to meet my hubby for lunch, I was prepared. Embroidery on the go! Am I the only person who walks around with a full embroidery kit in their bag? I'm not sure it's even legal, since I also carry my massive embroidery scissors, which could be classed as carrying a weapon!.......... I'm so cool!

3. I've been trying to organise my sewing stuff, because it's out of control. The odds and ends of embroidery threads now have a little place to live - on mini bobbins in a kilner jar. I really need to sort out a sewing room, never mind messing around with mini bobbins!

4. Since the weather hasn't been great, me and the little one spent a day making all sorts of things including balloon animals and these mini canvas masterpieces. Lots of mess making. Getting her to the sink to wash the paint off her hands is always tricky, since she loves to tease me by pretending to wipe her hands on the sofa. A comedian at three!

5. We've had a bumper crop of cooking apples from our tree, which makes a change from previous years. We're not sure why we've been getting such good apples, perhaps it's the wet weather, or perhaps someone is throwing supermarket apples over our fence? Anyway, my husband made a lovely apple pie, which we ate in one go! So greedy.

6. We're having a new kitchen fitted next week, and so I've spent a crazy amount of time packing up the kitchen ready for it to be ripped out. The good thing is that even though I can't use my sewing machine while the kitchen is being done, I can catch up on my other (million) projects. Plus, the kitchen table, which I do my sewing on, has never been so clear. Just one pile of embroidery stuff. Amazing.

(Update: I took this photo after the tidy up and a day later the table is littered with bits and bobs of material and sewing stuff).

7. One of the most exciting things about this week was our visit to the excellent Gulbenikian Theatre to see The Tiger Who Came To Tea. My little girl loved it, and was so excited to see the tiger that she tried to get on the stage! There's nothing a parent loves more than wrangling an excited star-crazed child in front of a captive audience of a hundred people, while trying to crouch down as low as possible so not to block the stage. Throughout the show she kept asking in her loudest voice "can I go on the stage". We did contemplate just letting her get on with it, and then sitting back to enjoy the mayhem, but I don't think the tiger would've come out alive. It would've been when I met Vic Reeves all other again.

Friday, 21 August 2015

"Procrastinate now, don't put it off"

I agree with Ellen DeGeneres - I'm a big procrastinator. Even typing the word 'procrastinator' makes me want to get up and make coffee half-way through. It's that bad!

So my remedy for this has always been to have lots of projects on the go. I get bored with one thing, no problem... I have ten other things to finish off. My main project at the moment is embroidering material, and then making it into a dress for my little girl. I'm going to use the Oliver & S Seashore Dress pattern. I love embroidery, love it, and doing chicken scratch enbroidery is fun. I got off to a good start, even took my embroidery box out with me and did some in the car while my daughter slept. Loved it. But in the last few days, something has stopped me from picking up my needle. I've started to get lazy (did I say lazy, I mean procrastinate... oh, make me a coffee). 

My procrastination could stem from the fact that we are having a new kitchen installed next week and I'm dreading it. All I can think of is the bloody mess it will make, the dust and the general inconvenience. Plus, when I'm not thinking about embroidering or sewing, I'm having to clear out the kitchen cupboards. Clearing out cupboards is a dismal experience. I have found utter filth in the back of our drawers and lots of spiders. Three questions I have asked myself today: Why are there rice grains in every single cupboard and drawer? What is that black sticky stuff, no really what is it? What the hell did that used to be? 

So today, instead of the embroidery, I pulled out a few of my unfinished projects which have been waiting patiently for me to get on with. The first is another pyrography project. Sorry everyone but I love burning stuff, and I can't resist a plain box that needs decorating. I ordered this one off Amazon for a couple of pounds. OK, slight lie, I ordered four... plus, three other boxes in all shapes and sizes. Oh, and a mini bird box. I have a problem I know, I know. 

I've started the front of it with a seaside-pier design and now I just have to work out what to put on all the other sides. This has been waiting a year to be finished! I have no idea why I haven't finished it, but since I won't be able to do any sewing, while the kitchen gets done, this is one of the projects I need to complete now. 

The next thing on my list is this crocheted granny-square blanket, which I started earlier this year and got really excited about. I was excited until I realised just how many squares I need to make it big enough to fit on my daughter's bed. I need millions. But this, again, is a good project to do while I can't use my sewing machine. 

So three things I have to do: embroider the dress ready to sew up, finish the paint box and get on with the blanket. That isn't all the projects I have on the go either. I have various embroidery projects waiting for me, I have to choose the material for the Dotty Angel dress, plus I have two dresses to make for my niece and my brother's girlfriend. Also, I have to think of designs for all those wooden boxes I bought... but those projects can wait. I'm already getting a head rush from just listing all the stuff. So when I get them done I'll post them on here... that's if they do get done. 

Have you got millions of projects on the go too? I bet you have. Let me know, I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, 17 August 2015

New Look 6340

Give me some wine, I've finally finished my dress - New Look 6340 in Japanese linen. 

I've been banging on about this dress and how much I love the fabric, but I've been so lazy about finishing it (hence my post 'the ten stumbling blocks of dressmaking'). This is the dress that actually had dust on it from sitting on the kitchen table so long. But this weekend I decided to get a grip and finish it.

The Japanese linen really is lovely - so easy to work with and hangs well. The pattern is straight forward too; not many pieces to cut thank goodness, and simple procedures written really well. There is a front and back facing to attach, but that was much easier then I'd anticipated. I'm a novice dressmaker, so if I can do it, anyone can. It's the first time I've done this and it turned out alright. There's also bias binding to put around the arm holes, but this is so easy, especially if you don't pin it first. Watch Liesl Gibson on YouTube explaining how to do this, and you'll have perfectly applied bias binding. I forgot to buy bias binding, so had to use some I had already. That's why it's bright pink, but no one will see it, will they. Stop looking at it. No stop it.

So, sounds simple doesn't it?

I, of course, had one difficulty. It wasn't a major problem, but a pain in the arse. When I was making the ties at the back, I forgot to attached a piece of string, which would make it easier to pull the tie the right way out. This meant that I spent an hour (yes, an HOUR) pulling out the ties with a bit of doweling I found in the kitchen cupboard. Imagine if I was a contestant on the Great British Sewing Bee. It would be a disaster. All the other contestant would have a finished garment... I'd have a sliver of half-finished tie back. No amount of flirting with whats-his-name would fix that (well done me for NOT entering).

While I was busy getting back ache and finishing the dress, my little girly and hubby made cupcakes. So now I can sit back in my beautiful dress and enjoy cupcakes and wine - perfect I think.




Saturday, 15 August 2015

A burnt memory box

I love the smell of burning wood, and I like the fact that the word 'pyrography' sort of insinuates that you're a pyro-maniac going straight. 

This is a good craft for me, but I have no idea how I started burning wood; maybe I got inspiration from a small burnt-wood picture I found in a junk shop, or perhaps Hobbycraft just hypnotised me into buying their wood burning tools? It doesn't really matter, because I'm hooked. When you find yourself teaching your eleven-year-old niece how to burn wood without singeing her hand off (or hair, oops), then you know you've got a problem. Here's one of the projects I completed when I was in full pyro-mania-mode, a memory box for my daughter.

I am slightly obsessed with painting, drawing and burning these weirdo birds. I made a pencil case and embroidered the birds on... but it all began with this box. I didn't put too much thought into it - just enjoyed doodling. I used a cheap plain-wood craft box and acrylic paints to colour it. It's so easy, that you need to give it a try. You'll love being a pyromaniac.

A little birdie told me... there's something coming this way...
soon it will be here

While photographing the box for this post, I had a look at the contents again. Inside is the first onesie my little girly wore in the hospital; her first piece of clothing. BLIMEY, was she really that small! There is also a notebook documenting her feeding and sleeping schedule. It seems crazy now to read it, and I can tell we were totally wiped out, frazzled and a bit crazy. We have even recorded when she puked, pooed and cried - we really were scared, novice parents. Those first few months were soooooooo hard (like being on another planet, where the aliens cry a lot). There is also my work diary from the time I found out I was preggo. The week before I finally took a pregnancy test, I drew a picture of myself and in capitals wrote 'I NEED TO STOP SALAD DODGING". Little did I know why I was putting on weight.

I think everyone should have a memory box. Not just for the children, but for all sorts of reasons. Let's be like those people in the movies, who discover a tin buried in the garden and inside they find all their old beloved toys (never understood the burying bit, why not just put them in a box in the loft? Were they worried about the plague for goodness sake?). Anyway, so, we could make a box of delights to pass onto someone. What would you put in your box if you made one today? Please let me know. Hopefully you can add comments now (slight glitch), and I would love to hear from you. XX

But what is coming birdie, is it a present for me?
It's a very special person, of course...
Who is this special person? Is it the queen?

No silly... it's little baby Von Stone! Do babies like birdies?
The little burnt-wood picture I found in a junk shop

Sketches for the box, and subsequent pencil case
The contents of the memory box, including her first booties,
first shoes, hospital tags and our notebooks and diaries

My cheap and cheerful wood burning tool