Saturday, 30 June 2012

correspondence club

This month I took part in the Correspondence Club, a snail mail exchange run by the lovely Nnenna of Starcrossedsmile. I was paired with Natasha of Don't think or judge, just listen.

She sent me this beautiful pink rose print card, and two pretty mini-notebooks with more pretty flowers and biblical quotations. She also included a magnetic photo frame, which is a really sweet and thoughtful idea. (Part of the deal is to include a small gift - $5 or under - with your letter).

Most of all, though, I loved her letter. It was very chatty, sweet and funny, and I got a real sense of her bubbly personality. Plus she asked questions which made me want to write back! Thank you so much Natasha, and pleased to meet you!
Correspondence Club
You can see a glimpse of what I sent, and find out details of how to sign up, HERE. Or just click the button above for more details about the Club.

Friday, 29 June 2012

vintage flowers

Recently I've had a bit of an online shopping spree and have gone through my paypal balance all too quickly. But just look at what I fell for! Dig Vintage is a recent and wonderful Etsy discovery of mine - click to visit at the peril of your pursestrings! The delightful pastel umbrella wrapping paper above is just one example of the temptations that await you.
I also received these beautiful antique flower bookplates, both colour and line drawings. I don't know what I'll do with them but I love them!
I am delighted with these adorably kitschy greetings cards! I love their ageing paper and unabashed indulgence in bright pinks, yellows, greens and blue - with a bit of glitter for good measure!
Some I may actually use as greetings cards, so taken with them am I! I love the crisp white pattern of branches that cuts across the dreamy blurriness of this scene, for example.
And I think this one, for example, is so pretty and tender for a new baby, with its luxuriant sprig of pink blossoms. Another online find - ebay this time - was this lovely job lot of vintage buttons, all in different flower shapes.
There are some really pretty buttons in this lot, including one very sweet, tiny blue shiny flower that I couldn't manage to get a decent photo of, so is not shown in this post (except for a tiny glimpse of its side). Hopefully it will appear on some future sewing project!
Buttons are going to be especially useful as I have a plans for the customisation of a lot of rather dull, cheap clothes over the coming months. In fact I have so many projects of this type that I will be starting a series called customise it - so look out for that, and with it an array of buttons and bows, trims and ribbons...

Thursday, 28 June 2012

bike things I like

Most weekdays, I get on my ancient Raleigh bike (passed on to me by someone who upgraded), with its huge weathered basket on the front, and cycle to work. I truly love my cycling time, even if I have been known to compose tweet rants in my head about irritating road users, which thankfully I forget about by the time I reach my destination! Today I am sharing 5 lovely bike-related things to inspire you to pedal!

1. NoraJane rubber stamp

I recently bought some pretty rubber stamps from this wonderful shop and would love to add the bicycle to my collection. They are beautifully made.

2. Eline S. Earrings giveaway

You can win these adorable cycle earrings over on the Blue Eyed Night Owl blog - just click here!

3. The Kid with a Bike

I loved this film, by Belgian directors Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne. It is a really moving but totally unsentimental depiction of a child abandonned by his father, and it shows without telling.

{image source and a nice review HERE}

4. Homemade bike seat covers

There are lots of lovely tutorials for bike seat covers around the net, but I think this one is my favourite even though the instructions are in German! I really want to make one to prettify and protect my ageing bike.

5. Syd Barrett's Bike

I discovered Pink Floyd's Piper at the Gates of Dawn when I was a teenager - the one and only Pink Floyd album where Syd headed the band. Back then I loved the weirdness and atmosphere, now I understand it as a truly Cambridge album. I live in the city where Barrett was born and died. You can listen to Bike below.

What bike things do you love, and what do you love about cycling?

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

handmade party bags

This is what I've been up to in odd moments lately: making a ton of drawstring fabric party bags for my little boy's 2nd birthday party this Saturday!

I love the fact that they are re-usable, and that they have brightly coloured trains all over them (guess the party theme, haha!) I didn't want anything too tasteful - these are for little ones, after all! Also I love that each one has a different ribbon tie.

What's great is that making these has really helped me to perfect my drawstring-bag-making skills! So much so that I'm planning to make a tutorial for these little beauties, because they make great gift bags and there are a few tips and tricks I've learnt by making so many, that I'd like to share. (I'm afraid the kid who gets the first one I made will get a less good quality one than the last one, oh well!)

Here's a little glimpse of what the kids will find inside: a train whistle, bubbles, and a mini water pistol (you can just see the sticker I made using this fabric picture). I tried to think of things that I would personally like, even as an adult! I'm looking forward to the insane sound of all those whistles this weekend. I love noisy kids, guess I'm unusual that way!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012


A little while ago, Masha of Hearting Handmade gave me the letter 'O' after she challenged her readers in her post '10 L-Words I love'. It was harder than I thought, and took weeks (!) but was also fun! Here are my 10 O-words.

1. Owls
This was the obvious one (though it wasn't the first thing that popped into my head, as you'll see below). I have loved owls for as long as I can remember, influenced I think by a dear family friend (who always sent me owl cards) as well as by their near-universal charm. I am happy that owls are no longer the latest trend: according to Spoonflower, snails are the new owls!

(I'm very grateful to Laura - I discovered this lovely video on her blog!)

2. Orlando
I adore Orlando the Marmalade Cat. Kathleen Hale is one of my favourite illustrators and the books take me back to childhood. I love the cats' personalities: the tender relationship between Orlando and Grace, his wife, and their three naughty kittens. (On a completely different note, Virginia Woolf's book Orlando is one of my favourite novels.)

{image source}

3. Oxlip
This is one of the wildflowers that became rare in the UK, although I believe it is thriving again now. Somewhere between a cowslip and a primrose, it has pretty yellow flowers and was a happy discovery on country walks when I was a child.

{image source}

4. Old
It's not that I love any old thing, it's just that I am fascinated by objects with a history and a past. I don't need to know what that history is to love it: I like to imagine. I recently bought some of these antique botanical illustrations, some for me, some for a friend. Who held that book and turned these pages?

5. Ordinary
Hear me out on this one: I spent my teenage years and early twenties feeling that every moment of my life had to be perfectly special. As I've grown older, I've learnt that a lot of life is perfectly ordinary, banal, mundane... and wonderful! Here's an example: what could be more ordinary than falling in love, or giving birth? I chose ordinary rather than "original" because I believe it's actually more important to embrace ordinariness in order to be happy. Originality is a great byproduct.

6. Oxymoron
Funny, odd, these contradictory images can be powerful in poetry. You can find out more in the wikipedia entry. I love them in the mad, illuminating and obscure poetry of Gerard de Nerval. In his Chimères he speaks of a radiant darkness...

7. Orphée
This is one of my favourite films. It's a bizarre, dreamlike film from 1950 by Jean Cocteau, a French artist, poet and filmmaker influenced by the surrealists. It retells the classical story of Orpheus, who tries to rescue his wife, Eurydice, from the underworld. You can find out more about it here.

{image source}

8. Open
I believe in being open to the world, not shutting it out. It's how we learn, and it breeds curiosity and tolerance. It can be hard when the world seems scary, but it's worth it.

{you can find out more about this badge I made in this post}

9. Ocean
I've written about it before, in this post. Everything about the ocean inspires me and makes me happy.

10. Orgasm
This was actually the first word that popped into my head when Masha assigned me "O"! {blushes}. I don't think it really needs an explanation, do you?

{image from the film, Amélie - if you don't remember this scene you should watch it again!}

If you would like me to challenge you with a letter, please let me know in a comment!

Monday, 25 June 2012

why did the owl make everyone laugh?

I'm excited to say that my Sketchbook Project Limited Edition has now been uploaded to the digital library on the Arthouse's website (see it HERE)! I'm so thankful I opted to have it digitised. Although there are a couple of pages that need re-doing, it looks great and it's lovely to be able to view and share it.

The theme was, "why did the owl make everyone laugh?" and having started with this first page (shown above) about not knowing the answer to that question, I found myself exploring my fears about being laughed at for my attempts to make art. I was the owl of the title.

As well as being a journey of liberation, moving towards the pleasures of creating and away from anxiety about what others think, the sketchbook also turned out to be a place to explore the relations between creativity and being a mum, as well as the sensitive child still within me.

I used collage, acrylic paint, text, drawing, watercolours, felt tip pens, crayons, colour pencils, found papers from magazines, catalogues (the flowers above were a gift from a friend) and vintage sheet music and books. It was very rushed at the end, and that is represented in the last pages, some of which are about waiting for my son's bedtime to be able to create them!

The very last page, though, shown at the top of this post, was planned from an early stage and represents all the support and encouragement I had that helped to see me through this project (thank you Ashlie!)

Flip through all the pages of my book HERE.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

quick quilt

"Sugar and spice and all things nice" - you know the rhyme, right, about pretty little girls and gross little boys made of slugs and snails? While I completely disagree in principle with this sexist rhyme, I have to admit that I've been longing to make something properly girlie. The birth of a friend's baby girl seemed the perfect opportunity!

It was also the opportunity to try a little more patchwork, with just 30 big easy squares. I love using what I have to make patchwork: it's a mixture of my mother's vintage stash, vintage finds from the wonderful HearthandmadeUK shop, new scraps from other projects, and also some pieces from this stash.

I kept things really simple. Although I'd love to experiment with different bindings, for this quick quilt I just used a simple topstitch around the edge.

I hugely admire complex, advanced patchwork and quilting and want to try some fancier things soon, but I think that even something simple can be pretty, personal and meaningful.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

little owl

Sometimes smaller is harder. I thought this little guy, who I made for a friend's baby, would be a quick little project. In fact it took just as long as my regular crinkle owls. Weird, huh?

Each time I make something, I learn a lot. I learnt that crinkly materials don't crinkle so well in small quantities/spaces.

I also learnt that it's not a good idea to have the turning-out gap at the bottom of the owl because the feet get in the way (and the feet ended up with one shorter than the other!)

I read somewhere recently - can't remember where - that manual activities can function as the equivalent of meditation. They require just enough concentration and focus that any stressful thoughts are screened out. And they force you to be present in the moment. That's how sewing feels for me.

This owl was one of my 34 Things to Make - I have to keep reminding myself of the list, because new things are coming up all the time!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

choo choo: done vs. perfect

Like many kids, my little boy loves trains, so I've been making him a fabric train picture for his 2nd birthday. I used it for the invitations and decorations at his party, and it will also go up on his wall so he can have his own special train there.
Spot the difference? The framed version is slightly different to the scanned image above. I just couldn't manage quite to finish it in time to get the invitations printed, so for want of the perfect gingham blue ribbon on the fenders, I went ahead and designed them anyway.
Sometimes done just has to win over perfect! But I still sought out the ribbon I wanted and sewed it on for the framed version. I'm not claiming it is "perfect", but it's more how I imagined it, and that's important to me.
More important than that though: the little one loves his early birthday present! He especially likes the steam, which is my favourite part too, and is made from an old flour sack we brought back from Texas.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Claire's cookies

Recently Claire from PolkadotPretties shared a lovely simple recipe for chocolate chip cookies. I love a simple recipe - the kind that's easy to remember and doesn't take too long. And I've yet to meet someone who doesn't like cookies! (Feel free to surprise me in the comments!)

Having tried out her recipe (mmm!) I realised how easy it would be to alter and adapt it with different combinations. We chatted on twitter about it, and after I suggested cranberries and macadamia nuts, she suggested white chocolate, and so the utterly delicious cookies pictured in this post were born: cranberry and white chocolate!

They are so easy to make: just click HERE for the original recipe, then use all white sugar, swap the dark/milk chocolate for white chocolate chunks, and add 75-100g cranberries. Yum! I so love all the ideas I get from my blogroll - and thanks Claire for this one!

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