Monday, 30 June 2014

Upcycling & Recycling Kinda Weekend

So you know how it is. You have some things forever, you love them, you'd never be parted from them and other things you have for a while and well, you just want to change them. Aha I hear you say, but are you not a super scrimpy type of person who does not waste money willy nilly replacing things that are not worn down to the bone? Yes I emphatically reply, I am indeed a super scrimper, but I do get bored with some of the things I own. Time for action then.

I loved this cushion when I bought it in 2012, it was the Queen's Jubilee year you see. I loved it so much I bought two. Now it has fallen out of favour. It's sister cushion has already been sold at a boot fair a few weeks back, so this one has been 'living' on borrowed time.

I thought I had found a solution last week when I chanced upon a gorgeous silk cushion in one of the local chazzas. It was perfect, if a little grubby. So I soaked it for a few hours to get rid of the dirty marks, disastrously the two main colours of the cushion leached into one another and the cover was ruined. That really pissed me off. But I did still have the feather cushion pad so all was not totally lost. This prompted me to give the Queenie cushion a make over, rather than buy another cover.

I carefully unpicked the cover and used the front piece as a template for my 'new' cushion. I had intended to recycle the piping and the zip but to be honest I only managed to salvage the zip as I couldn't sew a straight and tight enough line to make the piping look right. Never mind. The back part of the cover was in good condition so I re-used that.

I had a delve in my fabric stash and decided to liberate some Frida Kahlo fabric that I ordered from America a few years ago. It has been waiting for the right project and this was it.

So I have a fresh and 'new' cushion for my sofa with minimum expenditure. Job done.

This weekend I also managed to convince the Mister to sort out all of the old clothes he no longer wears, or are too worn out to keep. He took all of his old gardening rags clothes to the tip with a completely naff rug and other undesirables, then pensioned off some old t shirts and trousers, they have become his new gardening togs. Any clothing with some life but not really needed or wanted was dropped off at the Chazza today. I also have a couple of items to list on ebay.

I do love a good sort out.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Feeling Sheepish

As a result of my involvement with the South of England show, I met a very nice couple who have a smallholding. This week I was invited to visit their home and meet some of their flock of Coloured Ryeland sheep, with the possibility of buying some of their fleece. As you know dear reader I'm just starting to learn the art of spinning wool.

These are my absolute favourite sheep. Yes, I know what you're thinking she has a favourite sheep? Strange woman. But you can see why. They are just like huge teddy bears, are very docile natured, and they have the most amazing fleece, which is used for high-quality tweeds, hand-knitting wools and hosiery. Dare I say it they are good for meat as well.

They are probably the oldest recognised British sheep breed, originating over eight hundred years ago, and are among the minority breeds under the umbrella of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

I'm so smitten by them I'm contemplating having my own when we get our next house. As well as the hens, dogs et al.

For the moment though I have to master their fleece.

I deposited some of the fleece in cold water to soak over night, then decanted small amounts into another bowl to wash thoroughly before spinning the water out and popping into the greenhouse to dry.

I realise that my first efforts at spinning will probably create a very uneven yarn but I'm thinking it might be good enough to use to weave a small rug for the bedroom. I already have a smashing chocolate brown sheepskin rug that I bought last year at the Chatsworth Farm shop, but I have space for another rug and these natural colours will work perfectly.

I'd be super pleased if the yarn looks anything like this.

Then I'm in with a chance of creating something like this.

Well that's the theory anyway.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Garden Today

This is the first time we have grown Raspberries. We were given some small plants a couple of years ago, last year they didn't really fruit, or if they did Mr Birdie must have beaten us to it. But this year we are having some luck. Not huge amounts but enough to snaffle. I'm thinking some Raspberry ice cream would be good. But I wonder if the flavour will come through enough, has anybody made some? And have you any tips to pass on?

These droopy looking specimens were picked up at the weekend from a fellow Freegler.

Hamburg vine and another vine from the Champagne region. I'm really hoping these survive as I adore stuffed vine leaves and have a rather special recipe for same.

The same Freegler also gave us some Eau de Cologne Mint cuttings, that seems to be faring a bit better, although not much.

We saw this beautifully fragrant mint at Sissinghurst a couple of weeks ago and so were very keen to have some for our garden.

If the plant gets established and thrives maybe I could get my Apothecary friend to distill the mint and make a refreshing cologne, that would be amazing.

Our Roses continue to enchant, but look at this, seemingly two different blooms on one plant.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Inspiring Women

Not exactly being a spring chicken anymore, I'm always heartened when I see some positive news coverage about women who are over fifty and still contributing to something worthwhile, and really enjoying their success.

Suzy Menkes at age 70, has just left the high profile position of fashion editor for The International New York Times after 26 years. Not because she is retiring, oh no! But because she has been coaxed away by Conde Nast to become the new International Vogue Editor. I think that is absolutely brilliant.

She comes across as a woman who has her own ideas about everything and says and does what she feels. Suzy does not need to go with the flow, she creates her own waves. She is my kind of person.

She has a family of three children and five grandchildren who she adores, they are "the real part of my life". Completely down to earth she feels very strongly about "the ecological cost of fashion and the terrible business of cheap prices". She is all for fashion on a human scale, I think she would be as swayed by an upcycled item as a haute couture one. I hope she really enjoys herself at her new job, she sounds like a good egg to me.

If you like the sound of that lady you are gonna love the look and style of this lady, Carmen Dell 'Orefice, at aged 83years, the oldest working fashion model in the world.

Right, I'm off now to trim my Lonicera Nitida while the sun shines, if you'll pardon the expression.

Friday, 20 June 2014

The House is Finished (Almost)

It has taken our dedicated house painter 4 weeks to spruce up our very dilapidated house exterior. It's a job that has been long overdue, and we are thrilled with the results. I expect you're as nosy as me, so I thought I would show you.

We have been living here for six years and in that time we have almost doubled the size of the house, put in a new kitchen and bathrooms and have decorated it throughout. And as you know dear reader we are now turning our full attention to the garden. We will be spending a great deal of time at home this Summer and we want to maximise the garden's potential for our enjoyment. 

But blimey it has taken a long time to get everything in tip top condition and 'just so'. It is of course down to resources. Everything we could do ourselves, we have. But we both knew the exterior needed a professional hand, and we found a terrific local guy who has been brilliant.  All that's left for us to do now is the repainting of the older windows and doors, which are in the original part of the house, and to varnish some of the sun bleached sills. Which we will do over the rest of the Summer - no rush.

So this evening my dears I will be pouring a wee glass of chilled blonde sherry, parking my rear on our swing seat at the back of the garden and gazing down with fondness at the back of my newly painted 'Cornish Cream' home. Skol!

Hello and welcome to my two latest Google Friend connect followers, Julee who can be found blogging here
And Erickett124 who I can't find blogging at present. Welcome both.

Monday, 16 June 2014

The Scents of Summer

My love of essential oils with their heady powerful aromas and beneficial properties, stems from my time as manager of the Brighton branch of Culpepers, an historic chain of herbalist shops now sadly gone.

I always have a stash of oils to hand and use them to perfume the air, to keep my kitchen bin smelling fragrant, for various minor first aid treatments and best of all to add to face and body creams. Frankincense and Myrrh not only the right present for a celestial being but terrific for mature skins too.

A few years ago my love of oils took me on a trip to County Clare in the West of Ireland, to visit Ireland's oldest working perfumery.

The Burren Perfumery is set in a UNESCO supported global Geopark, a unique upland of outstanding floral diversity. Where 70% of Ireland's wildflowers can be found. It is a place like no other.


The perfumery is open to the public and is a complete joy. You can see the working mechanics of the place, sample and purchase the glorious products and have some afternoon tea. A perfect day.



If any of you dear readers are travelling to that nook of the Irish woods, I can heartily recommend a fantastic country house hotel, Gregans Castle. Which is in fact not really a castle but a quiet 18th century manor house, serving some of the best local food on offer.

Closer to home I have a friend who is a plant grower, gatherer and distiller. A true Apothecary, she crafts the purest and most delicious smelling products and lately has moved on to producing aromatic waters and tea blends.  Amanda is based in Lewes, East Sussex, you can find details of her products and bespoke scent workshops here.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Simple Pleasures

I have a queueing system at the moment for the projects I would like to tackle. This week I repainted an old 1950s magazine rack as I wanted something stylish and period to store my Long Players in. It's a nice glossy black now with squeaky clean bright red plastic ball feet, you know the kind I mean.

Next on the list is the ghastly orange pine trio of small tables that I got from one of my local chazzas. They are a perfect size for drinks and nibbles, and will fit nicely alongside my sofas without taking up to much space. Then a big project, to strip and decorate a chest of drawers, that's gonna be a very dusty job, yuk.
Then repaint a small rocking chair and yarn bomb a big stuffed toy goat.

When all that is done we will probably be in the depths of Winter. Perfect time of year to make a soft toy. I bought this beautiful kit from Alicia Poulson, who is based in Portland USA. Some of you may be familiar with her delightfully heart warming ,blog Posie Gets Cosy. The materials are top notch and everything has been thought through. Step by step instructions with coloured images, full size patterns and every little thing needed has been provided. I'm especially looking forward to using the Liberty Tana Lawn fabrics, and trying my hand at some fine embroidery.

I'm really pleased that the tiny Lavender plugs that I planted out last year are just starting to flower and spread across our little garden path that runs along the back of the house. The plants share the bed with our Roses. I cut them back almost to the ground a few weeks ago, as Monty Don told me to, and they are growing strongly and look mighty healthy.

We've settled on a place for this small bust, a replica from one at Charleston Farmhouse, and I love the way the Rosebuds are beginning to wind around his face. Simple pleasures.

A warm welcome to my latest Google Friend Connect follower Lyn. I can't tell you how much pleasure it gives me to see my numbers growing and to be able to see who is connecting with me. It's starting to feel like a real community.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Some Good News

I know that most, if not all of my blog followers are animal lovers who respect the connectivity between us and creatures and indeed plants come to that. I want to share this little film with you. Produced by Peace by Piece, an Animal Asia new landmark campaign to help rescue and rehabilitate over 130 moon bears in Nanning, China.

These bears have been kept in the cruellest conditions, many trapped in tiny cages from birth and farmed for their bile. Their aim is to take them from farm to freedom.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

My Week

Picked up this rather sweet metal sign from one of my local chazzas. It was painted in a garish red and black and was a bit worse for wear rather than looking 'time worn' and vintage chic. I didn't want to buy any special paints to give it a make over as we have pots and pots of paint in our garden shed. I had a quick delve and found some nice Farrow and Ball tester pots. They worked perfectly well with a little bit of primer underneath. I have hung it up in my garden studio where I will be holding my workshops, just in case we forget to have some tea and cake, as if!

Spoke to lots of lovely folk at the South of England Show on Friday. I managed to have a quick squiz around too. I was given some lovely free range eggs from the chap on the Mantel Farm stand and have been invited to visit a farm where my favourite sheep live. I'm hoping I may secure some fleeces from the breeder as I will be starting to learn to spin wool next week. VERY excited about that.

My hanging baskets are now back up as our painter has finished the back of the house. These gorgeous baskets were an incredible super scrimpy price of £10.00 each, from Morrisons. And as they can't seem to stop giving me vouchers at the mo, they really were free. The middle pic is of our raspberry canes that are fruiting for the first time since we were given them a couple of years ago. If the birds don't get them first we should have some delicious fruit soon.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

South of England Show

Just a little reminder that I will be at the South of England Show tomorrow. You can find me in the East Sussex Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Guild marquee, talking to all and sundry about creative ways with yarn. And BIGGING UP me workshops. (You have to read that a la Liza Tarbuck).

Please come and say hello if you are in attendance. My fingers are crossed for this rare spell of sunshine to continue.

A very warm welcome to my two latest followers, Yvonne and Mo.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Yarn Love

I discovered this dear little film yesterday. Warning, It's only yarn but it's a wee bit sad. 

Monday, 2 June 2014

Make Some Elderflower Fizz

I've just been prompted by Dawn's blogpost to get my bottom in gear and make some Elderflower Fizz before the flower heads in our garden go over.

This year I'm using the same IKEA flip top bottles as her, which I wisely purchased last time I made the dreaded journey to our nearest IKEA.
Last year I used large plastic lemonade bottles and they stood up to the pressure ok.

I bought two of the clear 10ltr food store 'buckets' this morning and they were fine with the hot water part of the recipe. £2.99 each a real bargain and I figure can be used year after year.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Off to The South of England Agricultural Show

Here she is then, off on her big trip. My first attempt at needle felting, Lizzie Shrimpton, has been labelled up, just like an evacuee, wrapped in acid-free tissue and is winging her way to the South of England Showground.

Lizzie will be on display there at the East Sussex Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Guild marquee, or Duckers and Divers as the Mister calls us. She will be there all three days. I will be with her on Friday 6th.

Hopefully she will encourage others to have a go at making something they would like.

You probably know dear reader that I am crazy keen on wool, in all its sustainable gorgeousness. Lizzie has been fashioned from wool tops and recycled vintage fabric. I particularly like her madame Pompadour hair, which has been hand dyed. So much nicer in the flesh so to speak.

The event is on 5th-7th June at the Ardingly showground. Be there or be square.

A warm welcome to my latest Google connect friend Sue who blogs here.