Monday, 27 January 2014

New Year Bunny: Miss Maggie Rabbit by Alicia Paulson

After Christmas I always start to dread the new year.  I am not filled with enthusiasm for a new year, I generally feel a bit wistful that another one is over.  I feel flat at the thought of three whole months spent broke and on a diet in miserable weather with nothing to look forward to but [stinky] daffodils and Easter eggs.  Spring always seems to be a long time coming here in England.  

Feeling tired and stressed in the build up to Christmas, I chose not to be maudlin at the start of 2014 and vowed to myself that I'd do everything I could to make the last of the Winter more enjoyable.  I decided I would eat exactly what I fancy (no diets here yet, thank you) and keep the house as warm, light and welcoming as I possibly can.   

Pies and stews have been cooked and eaten, woodburners have been lit and my favourite candles have been filling the house with the cosy scent of nutmeg and spices.  I have been feeling very unwell - absolutely worn out - and have needed time to recharge my batteries. 

I have kept my weekends generally clear and undemanding to allow me to spend as much time as possible curled up in an armchair with nothing to do but knit and stitch.  

I bought the kit for Miss Maggie Rabbit a while before Christmas and deliberately saved her for my new year project.  I was a little anxious about starting as I wasn't sure I'd be able to do a very good job, but I was surprised by how simple the pattern is.

The felt that Alicia chose for the rabbit is a joy to work with and I enjoyed every minute of stitching it.  The instructions were easy to follow and the little dress was fun to make too.  I especially liked stitching the little pair of felt boots.

I made the rabbit for myself.  I planned to sit her on the shelves in my craft room where I could admire her daily.  Everything about her pleases me; her ears, particularly, which are made of my favourite Liberty print.    Unfortunately, my niece saw a photo and immediately declared she would like Miss Maggie herself.  I smiled non-commitally and deliberated for a couple of weeks about whether a five year old would *really* appreciate her as much as I do.  

But you know the end of this story.  Miss Maggie has been renamed Mimi and is now sitting, minus cape and boots, on the pink pillow of my little niece who, it turns out, loves 'Mimi' even more than I do.  I am going to have to make another for myself and have been pondering what fabric I'll use next time for Miss Maggie Jr's dress. 



Miss Maggie Rabbit is an Alicia Paulson creation and the kit can be bought online at Alicia's shop.  I popped over to the blog for this link and noticed a little rabbit on the table in a hot pink duffle coat.  Oh my, I'm hoping that the pattern is released; it's adorable.  

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Change your bathroom - how to update your home without spending a fortune

Facing a bathroom overhaul can be daunting, especially if it involves changing fixtures and fittings as well as a new lick of paint.

However, considering how personal the time is that we spend in the bathroom, it is worth the best upgrade possible.

The bathroom is actually a room which can bring out a great deal of your creativity as you get inventive on how to best utilise and decorate the space.

Stick to the theme

Decide on a style and colour theme and stick to it. If all of your decisions are based on a theme, you will find them a lot easier to make.

Once you know what look you want in your bathroom, choosing colours, fixtures and fittings will be a walk in the park, taking away the anxiety that often accompanies home upgrades.

Quality shower fittings

If you enjoy a strong shower which blasts out water at the desired temperate, it is a good idea to ditch the shower curtain and invest in a shower screen.

Find shower screens at Mira Showers from a wide selection including bi-fold doors, side panels, pivot doors and corner entry varieties in durable and attractive glass.

Bathroom experts

It is important to deal with the professionals when it comes to getting advice for upgrading your bathroom.

Mira Bathrooms has nearly a century of experience in the business of bathroom fixtures, fittings, designs and technology.

They are well versed tailor-making solutions to any bathroom regardless of shape or size.


Don’t hesitate to get out the paint brush to give your walls a new lick of paint if it will make a difference. One way of giving a bathroom a sense of space is to paint the ceiling a lighter colour than the walls.

If you go for wallpaper instead, go for a water-resistant and washable type.

Wall hangings

Do you have the ideal mirror in your bathroom or have you just become used to it?
If you want to create an illusion of greater space, invest in a larger mirror. Depending on the style theme of the room, you can finish it off with an ornate or minimalistic frame.

Take a good look at your bathroom walls. Now that they have been repainted or papered, would they suit some pictures or wall hangings?

Bathroom items

A simple way of giving your bathroom a fresh look once all of the basic work has been done is to purchase a new set of towels.

What’s hanging on your towel rack right now – or would you rather not think about it?
Invest in a set of towels which match your new bathroom. They really are the final touches.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Being an Auntie

I have always *always* wanted to be an auntie.  Never wanted my own children, but always wanted a niece or nephew.

In my teens I would joke with my sister that I was going to be the cool, fun, auntie who would screech to a halt outside her house in my little red sports car, toot the horn for my delighted niece to join me then whizz her away for a day of fun, treats and general spoiling.  Then I'd drop her off at the end of the day, exhausted and happy, and roar into the distance, to a glamorous party full of interesting people and gorgeous men.

My life isn't the glamour-fest I imagined in my youth (although, let me tell you, I can ROCK a fleece onesie) but I have the most lovely little niece that I could ever have wished for.  She is cute beyond words, funny, bright and extremely loving.  I adore her, even if she is a cheeky little madam and too used to getting her own way!  She's a pretty little thing, too.

This year, for the first time, she chose and wrote my birthday card all by herself.

When we met in the restaurant on my birthday, she rushed up towards me clutching two pink envelopes:  "Auntie Nicki, Auntie Nicki, we've got two cards for you.  This one's from mummy and this one's from me."  She proceeded to tear open the envelope.  "Look, isn't it cute?!   It's the cat's birthday and the birdy is giving him a flower." As she said this, Izzie clenched her fists and pressed them excitedly against her mouth; her eyes were sparkling and she did one of those quick little knee-bend bobs that people do when they are really excited and can't stand still.  "Isn't it so pretty, Auntie Nicki, is it your favourite?"  

I don't like to pick favourites but, yes, this card really is my favourite.  I will never forget the way she presented this little card.  She was unbearably cute and her enthusiasm was contagious.

I know that when she wrote the card out she would have concentrated *really* hard on writing each letter, asking her mummy how to spell 'Nicki' (I'm guessing she included the 'y' herself as she is learning phonics at school and this would have made perfect sense to her.)  The little kisses at the end are an extra little flourish she would have added herself.  It is the most perfect specimen of writing ever.

I realise that to most people this is all sentimental nonsense and that scribbles from your little ones are probably ten a penny.  But, to me, this is everything.   It is evidence of a little person in my life that I have always wanted and a relationship that I treasure.  

With love and fluffy stuff,



Thursday, 2 January 2014

Homemade labels for your handmade pretties

I have always loved the paraphernalia that comes with taking up a hobby.  As a child my great-grandmother taught me to embroider and I kept a beautiful sewing box with all of my embroidery floss and patterns stored nicely stored inside.  As a teenager, I chose to study art and loved collecting the tools of the trade; the pencils, paints and technical drawing pens for my creations.

This year I have fallen for sewing again in a big way and have found that there are never-ending ways in which to stock up on supplies.  I love it.  Glass-headed pins, safety pins, sharps needles, quilting needles, gold eye needles, pretty (and functional) scissors... sigh... I love it all.  And don't get me started on the fabric.  (I am currently amidst a very intense stash-building mission and I take my missions very seriously.)  I seem to have developed a particular passion for pin cushions, needle cases and embroidery scissors.  I had been wanting to make some needle cases for a while and decided to make a couple as Christmas gifts for the lovely crafty folk in my life.  I made two and packaged both of them up to be opened on Christmas Day.  I was delighted with the results but started to wish that I'd made one for myself.  It was niggling at me all over Christmas and yesterday I decided to just blinking make one.  Just for me. 

Red is my favourite colour and so, unsurprisingly, I have lots of red/pink mix fabrics in my scrap stash and I found a few odd bits that were the perfect size to make these needle cases.  The pattern is from A Passion for Quilting (great book - you *need* it).  You basically just cut a piece of base fabric to size and then piece together the fabric scraps, attaching them to the base fabric, one by one (I think the method is called Foundation Piecing but please correct me below if I'm wrong).  

Inspired by another pattern in one of my other [many] patchwork books, I made a little label for the front.  

Despite being a stickler for proper grammar, I do love to make labels without a capital letter in sight.  Feels rebellious.
I bought some printable cotton from Amazon and set about designing some labels in Word.  I used the auto format for address labels because I knew that I wanted to make some very small labels and [at £12 for 5 sheets] I wanted to be sure to use every inch of space on the fabric that I possibly could!  I did a test run on regular A4 paper and when I was happy I printed straight to the fabric.  It's basically a thin cotton fabric attached to a thin sheet of card.  I have an ordinary Hewlett Packard inkjet printer and it worked perfectly.  When you've given the ink a few minutes to dry you just peel the backing from the fabric and cut each piece to size.  Easy peasy.  It is, of course, possible to print onto other fabric that you baste to a piece of card and I totally plan to give that a whirl some other time.  It would be cheaper but, more importantly, give way to even more options for the finished item.

I began by making some gifts for Izzie's teachers.  I made lavender hearts for them from Christmassy fabric and sewed on labels saying 'Happy Christmas, love from Izzie x' on them.  I printed a few of these labels at the same time and so I still have some for next year if I need them.  Whilst printing, I fiddled around with fonts and sizing to get the exact look I was after.  The beauty of preparing them on your own computer means that you can print them in any colour, size or style that your heart may desire! I know that some people use the fabric for printing photographs and using that fabric for personalised cushions.  The possibilities are endless!  I like the simplicity of an old-fashioned typewriter font (I mostly used American Typewriter or Courier) and made lots of different sized 'homebird' labels for future projects.  I couldn't resist it and attached one on the back of my needle case... 

I should point out here that I attended a Julie Arkell brooch-making class at the beginning of September and my makes to date have been very much inspired by her.  This needle case is made from a selection of new and vintage fabrics and is supposed to be a bit scruffy and scrappy-looking.  Honest!  The vintage fabrics have the odd perforation where they were previously sewn and you can just see from this picture that the fabric with the basket of roses has a small scuff at the very top.  I like it this way and tried to sew the labels roughly so that it has a 'loved' appearance rather than seeming brand spanking new.  

I gave them as gifts with a selection of cute pins that I sourced on Facebook and Etsy.  They aren't especially practical but are very pretty and there's a little room in all of our lives for beautiful but useless things I reckon. 

Pretty pins from Teeny Tiny Vintage; find her on Facebook

My beloved Jessie Chorley pin cushion bought at the Selvedge Winter Fair, home for pretty beaded pins from Etsy.
I love the printed fabric that Jessie Chorley uses for her creations and I am going to try printing some vintage labels onto fabric to achieve a similar look.  Hope Jessie doesn't mind.  (I'm going to one of her classes at Hope & Elvis in June so I will run it past her then.  Ha!)

For Christmas, I asked Santa for an oilskin sewing roll from Merchant & Mills that I had been coveting for, like, ever.

I must have been good because there it was, lovingly wrapped, under the tree on Christmas Day.  I think it is my favourite gift.  I love it (*said with clenched teeth and fists*).  It is so beautifully utilitarian (almost an oxymoron).  So tactile and so old-fashioned.  

It came filled with a tape measure, wide bow scissors, a selection of needles and a box of pins.  I have bought lots from Merchant & Mills here and there.  I love their styling and, although a bit spenny, their products are really well made.  You definitely get what you pay for. 

This sewing roll has ignited a burning desire for an apron in the same oilskin with big tradesman-style pockets.  And maybe I ought to wear some small half-moon wire-rimmed glasses.  Like Gepetto, but a seamstress, not a carpenter.  Yes, that's exactly the look I'm after.  I've always loved Gepetto.



Wednesday, 1 January 2014

A festive round-up

Hi hi! Happy new year!

I feel great today.  Really happy, relaxed and calm.  I do not have a hangover, for I was in bed reading at 8:30pm last night (yeah, dudes, rock n roll).  As a result, I was up bright and early this morning, pottering and faffing in my craft room.  I am now writing this whilst drinking chocolate Baileys and watching The Sound of Music.  I could not be any happier!

Matching my yarn to my dress, natch.
I was incredibly busy in the run up to Christmas and, as we were hosting Christmas lunch (for 8 adults) for the first time ever, I was getting stressed.  I usually love December.  It feels like such a slow month and I adore the building anticipation as you get closer to Christmas Day.  This year, December flew by.   Time seemed to ramp up a gear from our weekend at Cowslip and I didn't leave the fast lane.  Until Monday evening: 30th December.  I wrapped up in a red tartan wool throw then we lit the fire and watched the Downton Abbey Christmas special.  It was lovely.  I was in that snuggly state of being half asleep but awake enough to register what was happening with the Crawleys.   It was the first time that Andrew and I had properly snuggled up in front of the telly on our own over since way before Christmas; we needed the time to recharge.

I made quite a few gifts for friends and family this year, including lots of lavender hearts, tissue cases and peppermint bark.  The tissue case tutorial was found on the two brown birds blog and is, frankly, genius.

I also made a festive lap blanket for my mother in law. (snorting at the expression 'festive lap blanket' - sounds so pompous.)

I used a layer cake from Moda (a Winters Lane) and cut the pieces into 5" squares - still lots left.

Packaged up with a lavender heart, ready to wrap.
Because I was nervous about making the quilt, I left it right until the last minute and produced it almost entirely fuelled by adrenalin.  I chose a piece of red gingham for the backing fabric and, after an impromptu binding lesson in the patchwork shop by the friendly owner there, I was on my own!  I was dreading the binding but it was actually my favourite part in the end.  I was sad when it was finished and am already planning another!  I *may* need to change our dining room table so that I have something big enough on which to lay out some much larger quilts! ;)

I think Ma F liked it; she sent me this photo from her house on Boxing Day.  Phew!
What made the whole process more nerve-wracking is that my MIL is an expert machinist - she has been making shoes in Northamptonshire her whole working life; even teaching at the local college.  She can spot a wonky seam from fifty paces.  With that said, she does at least appreciate the work and effort that goes into making something and I think she liked the finished quilt.  At least, I hope she did.


Yesterday, New Year's Eve, was my birthday.  I love birthdays.  (Especially mine - ha!)

Andrew surprised me with a candle-lit birthday cake and champagne before breakfast, then we headed into London to see a West End show, as is our tradition.  This time we went to see The Lion King.  Both Andrew and I had seen it before (with our exes, not together) but we wanted one that Izzie (my 4 year old niece) could come along to, and this seemed to be the only suitable one - Matilda and Charlie were too old for her, according to the parental guidance.  My sis and her husband brought her to join Drew, mum, dad and me.  I loved it.  Loved every minute.  I adore my family and love spending time with them; time together feels even more precious as you get older and I definitely do not take it for granted.  We always have a great time going out with my mum and dad but it was nice that my sis and her  family joined us this year.

We ate steaks and mussels at Cafe Rouge, spending a good two hours chatting, laughing and being kissed by Izzie.  We sneaked in a bit of shopping beforehand at Liberty too (of course).  We were all back at our respective homes by 7:30pm and I can't tell you how much I prefer a NYE involving a bit of shopping, lunch and a matinee performance rather than dolling myself up to go out drinking in the evening.  I've never liked going out in the evenings on NYE; I think because mum and dad used to go out every NYE and leave me to be babysat by my nan.  Nan and I used to eat crisps and sweets (a real treat!) and pull the two armchairs right up to the TV to watch Morecambe & Wise together.  I still like to cosy up at home on New Year's Eve now, 27 years later.

I was given some lovely presents for my birthday including some gorgeous additions to my wardrobe from Cabbages & Roses from Andrew and some beautiful perfume with matching body lotion:

Smells beautiful and has the added benefit of calming and restoring the mind.
I was given my favourite chocolates, too.  Love Rose & Violet creams and the best I have tasted are from Charbonnel & Walker.

The Greengate quilt in the background was a birthday gift from my Grandma.  
Mum and dad gave me a beautiful sparkly Swarovski cuff bracelet, a Swarovski pen and a Lynette Anderson cushion kit - The Orange Tree.  I will crack on with that soon.

The threads above were not for my birthday - mum gave them to me for Christmas, but I'm so delighted by them that I wanted to show you!  I know my blog friends will appreciate them :)

So, a lengthy post and a bit of a Christmas/birthday round-up.  Hope I didn't bore.  Andrew's just fetching me a coffee and a mince pie so I'm going to sit and watch the rest of the Sound of Music and enjoy the last dregs of the first day of the year.

Wishing you all a very, very, happy new year.  Looking forward to spending it with you in cyberspace.