When I was making all those cushions the other week, one of the fabrics I used was this lovely antique French one featuring doves billing and cooing in the roses. It triggered my memory that some time ago I had also used it to make myself an inspiration board. The piece of fabric was a little stained with age but I knew it would be largely covered up and in any case I don't care, it's still amazing to me.

I bought chipboard first thing one Monday morning from a local timber yard. As I stood there in line, with all the builders who were waiting for their large quantities of wood, boxes of nails and screws, etc, they thought it hilarious when I asked for advice on the appropriate wood for my board and then had it cut down to my measurements. I also bought a long length of plywood before making a hasty escape.

Using a mini saw, I hacked off all four corners of the board, then cut down and fixed on four pieces of the plywood to form a frame at the back. I already had some thick interlining from previous curtain making projects so I padded the board with a few squares, then laid a piece of my precious fabric over the front and secured it round the back with my staple gun. I also used some coordinating ribbon to criss cross the fabric, pulled the strips tight and stapled the ends to the frame.

Finally I fixed a couple of eyelet screws to either side and secured some picture framing wire so I can hang my board like a picture above my sewing table. I've often thought about gluing buttons to the parts that cross but I never got round to it, you know I'm an incurable hoarder when it comes to my buttons. Granted, I can barely see my doves now but I know they're there, that's all that matters and I do love my little piece of inspiration.

On my board I have things such as favourite Liberty swatches, a piece of the antique French metal trim I have in my cupboard, an unused 1939 calendar and pictures of jewellery I've cut from magazines. There are also treasures from my travels like the St Christopher's medallion I was given by the nuns at Mother Teresa's hospital in Calcutta, and a traditional handmade worry doll brooch from a market in Guatemala. But the most important things to me, it goes without saying, are the cards and drawings that have been pinned on by the children.

Do you have a board and if so, what do you have on it?


a unicorn dress

The weather here at the moment is perfect, 25 degrees at 9am and just how Summer should be, so this dress couldn't be more timely. Except that it's a school day today!

The wonders of double gauze. Not only does it feel sooo good, but it is perfect for the Summer heat. This fabric is from Heather Ross's first Far Far Away collection from a couple of years back. Now, the only trouble is, the 1 1/5 yards I bought might well have been enough for a dress back in 2009 but it has proved much more of a challenge in 2011. It's that growth business again!

But that's where this sundress comes into its own. Yep, I've been shirring again! Super quick to make, this is merely a rectangle with four straps and has to be the most economical use of fabric ever. So, thankfully, the Model's request for a unicorn dress was indeed possible.

Although I used all the available length I was able to make it nice and wide, so not only is there a good amount of twirl-worthiness but over time any number of rows of shirring can be unpicked and in theory she could eventually wear it as a top. There you go, this creation will still be in her wardrobe when she's 21 ! Value for money indeed ..

Enjoy the sunshine, I'll see you soon x


crafting ikea

I felt like trying to inject some pretty into my sewing room this week so set to work on Monday with this Ikea step stool that was previously in the boy's bedroom, only now it's mine! This has to be one of my favourite Ikea pieces, along with three Molger benches, which I have covered with white linen sheets.

I applied a couple of coats of white wood stain and then covered the top step this morning with some bargain 'christobel' oilcloth that I've had for a long time and been wondering what to do with, given it was too small a piece to put on the kitchen table. I secured it on the underside with a staple gun and fortunately the cloth isn't slippery so it should work well for my purpose (touch wood!!).

Seeing this now is definitely helping to beat the bad weather blues. My goodness will this rain ever stop?

What's your favourite Ikea thing?


cathryn's dress

Another recent trip to my favourite fabric shop rewarded me with this Liberty Cathryn's tana lawn. Incidentally I'll let you into a little secret; the other day they had a small amount of Burberry fabric (two different weights, the real deal) for £7 per metre, I think. And they send by post. Thought you may be interested. But back to the tana which is an absolute dream to sew but because it is so fine, I lined the body of the dress with cotton voile. It made the process a little longer but definitely worth it as I need have no worries about being caught with the sunlight behind me, if you know what I mean!

The pattern is style 'S' from Stylish Dress Vol 2. I already knew the fit was going to be loose because that's pretty much par for the course with most Japanese patterns but then I saw what Karyn had done with hers. It reminded me how much fun I had last year when I first discovered shirring and was keen to do some more. Nevertheless I made the dress up as per the sewing book and tried it on. It looked, and felt, like I was wearing a nightie so as predicted, out came the shirring elastic. I just left the hem till the end because I knew the shirring would make the dress a little 'shorter'.

Like Karyn I shirred four rows between the bust and the waist but, you know, I really should trust my instincts more because I so very nearly stopped after three just to check all was going to plan. For sure enough once it was done and dusted I regretted not stopping sooner. I also felt that I'd started the shirring a little on the high side so I unpicked that first row, neatened it up and retried the dress. The print is busy enough to forgive the unpicking so the lost row doesn't show and I'm glad I did it, it just didn't feel right before.

After what seems a very long time sewing cushions, it feels good to be back in the clothes making saddle and I'm already deciding on what to do next .. only it also occurs to me I've neglected my knitting for long enough and the warmth of Summer is [supposed to be] coming! Decisions, decisions ..

Have a lovely week x


and finally

Okay, that's it now I reckon. Well, we'll see but I'm thinking you may already have visions of me drowning under a sea of cushions. But I have two sofas to accommodate, which equates to a fair few in my book.

I've used purely from the stash, in fact I got really quite brave with my snipping but, if you're anything like me you'll have a shelf positively groaning with fabrics that possibly deserve to be kept out and appreciated, rather than squashed and hidden under a multitude of material. Sounding familiar?

The top cushion has lovely old floral fabric. It is very lightweight and delicate so I backed it with iron-on interfacing and darned a small hole!

This one incorporates a small 'morceau' of French boutis. I bought a panel for next to nothing but that was because the condition is very poor. It is mostly dirty and in parts there are splits in the cotton but I cut a nine inch square, edged it with vintage grosgrain ribbon and sewed it onto my trusty linen (which is almost gone now, boo hoo!) ..

Definitely one of my favourites, the doves billing and cooing in the roses are just lovely ..

Eastern European monogrammed linen. Really thick and robust, and backed with equally strong white linen ..

Another of my favourites, vivid French red which has been sewn onto heavy hemp ..

And finally there's this one which is made from new fabric. The print actually has quite bright red stripes so I used the reverse side which is much softer, looks aged and fits in better with the vintage prints on the others.

So there you have it, and it's over and out with the cushions for now. Next up? Sewing Japanese ..

See you soon x


mangle cloth

A while back I managed to nab some matching unused French mangle cloths for a snip from a London stall. That doesn't happen often here, let me tell you, so I was more than happy!

If you're unfamiliar with mangle cloths, they are made from lovely long linen and have any number of stripes running alongside each selvedge. They soften beautifully with use but are also helpfully robust and can take a really hot wash, which makes sense when you realise their purpose was to go through the mangle with the rest of your washing all those years ago.

I managed four cushion covers out of one cloth, with the stripe at the bottom of the cover, otherwise I would have had to make a seam. There was also enough fabric to use the same cloth for the backing, which pleases me greatly seeing as half the time they'll doubtless end up on the floor, hmmm! And because I could incorporate the selvedge, there was no hemming needed whatsoever, so they were whipped up in very little time at all.

These are destined for my French dining chairs, I needed to protect the rush seat pads from childrens' knees and kitty cats' claws. Incidentally, the tabby is driving me nuts at the moment, he is back to climbing the curtains (which I painstakingly made myself, to add insult to injury) and now I can see large claw holes all the way up to the pole. Luckily I can smooth them out but honestly, he's way too heavy for this sort of thing now so the water gun will make its reappearance if he doesn't stop soon!

Wishing you a happy weekend x



Why is there never a greenfly about when you need one?

The bug-crazy Model has hatched out ladybirds and refuses to let them go until eggs are laid. Each year we get either caterpillars or ladybirds from here and if you're not familiar with this company I can strongly recommend it. Last year we saw them hatch from their eggs into the teeniest and ugliest of grubs, watched them grow at an alarming rate and then change into the most lovely bugs of them all. Then the cycle continued as we watched them mate and finally witnessed the egg laying. Right in front of our eyes we could see the eggs popping out and, believe me, it was fascinating stuff. Anyway the bugs are hungry and I've spent a great deal of my time searching out nourishment this morning.

It's a miserable day today. As I sit here in my sewing room with all the lights on, pretending it's the sun beating down (perhaps I should put the heating on for added effect), I can smell Pomona's wonderful lavender, sent as part of her recent giveaway that I was thrilled to win. With an assortment of other goodies, what a joy that was to come back to after my week away. Thank you so much x

Finally it's time to attempt some work, now that I've finished my glass of elderflower cordial made with ingredients brought back from Dorset. I based mine on Sarah Raven's recipe from her brilliant Garden Cookbook. Would you believe the whole of Swanage had sold out of citric acid? Never mind, it won't keep as long but some has gone into the freezer and the rest won't last long here anyway! This is the recipe ..

Elderflower Cordial

1.35kg sugar
flowers from 15 - 20 elderflower heads (shake off any bugs)
2 oranges, thinly sliced
2 lemons, thinly sliced
2 limes, thinly sliced
30g tartaric (or citric) acid

Put 1.15 litres water and the sugar in a large saucepan and dissolve completely before bringing to the boil. Add the flowers, bring back to the boil and remove from heat immediately. Put the thinly sliced fruit into a large bowl, add the tartaric acid (if using) and pour over the hot syrup and flowers. Stir well, cover loosely and leave for 24 hours. Strain the mixture and pour into sterilised bottles. Bottles can be sterilised either in the oven or by pouring boiling water into them.

Happy Wednesday.


sailing boats

We've just returned from our Half Term by the sea. Not the usual relaxing week this time, as it was dominated by a stream of deliveries because we've been doing up the cottage. But it was good, much needed, fresh air, not to mention some cracking weather too.

So I've been having a relaxing morning, getting reacquainted with my sewing machine, whilst the smell of steeping elderflowers, brought back from the countryside, pervades the house.

When I found a piece of vintage barkcloth featuring sailing boats and islands I couldn't believe my luck but because the fabric has several different vignettes in the pattern, it's not an easy one to cut into. Trying to get a good square whilst saving other pieces for more projects makes it quite a challenge.

I made a cushion and backed it with my usual antique linen which will be perfect for a room by the sea. All of a sudden I'm there again.

Did you have a lovely week?


a furry tale .. or two

Well excuse me for blowing our own trumpets and coming across as dreadful parents, the likes of whom live their lives through the fame of their offspring, but on Wednesday night we were watching The Apprentice when our two unexpectedly popped up on screen.

Oh no, I'm not talking about the biological children. It was the kittens who had their 15 seconds of fame! Check them out, they're on at about 11.45 minutes .. but for goodness sake, don't blink! Millie Mittens is the black and white who jumps up at the wall and then gets moved off Leon's knee, Alfie is the little tabby popping out from underneath Karen's chair. It must have been filmed the day before we collected them. So cute and very exciting for the children.

The other night Alfie stayed out the whole night for the first time. I'm a little embarrassed to say I was worried sick and even got up in the middle of the night to shine a torch around the garden, much to the husband's bemusement. Men just don't understand how we mothers feel, do they? Needless to say, the furry one turned up the next morning, very thirsty and very hungry but not at all as traumatised as I was! The children were overjoyed to see him too, so they held a party in his honour.

Only the little furball didn't attend. Goodness knows what he was up to all night, because this was pretty much it for the next day ..

Hoping you're having a lovely Half Term week.