Thursday 30 September 2010

Nancy's Home Shop

So in an effort to postpone returning to regular employment any time soon, I have set up an Etsy shop!  You can find it here - it is called Nancy's Home Shop and is full of lovely fabric things for your home.

I've been sewing everything for the past couple of weeks, and am so pleased to have it all set up and working now.

My favourite thing - and top of my list to make more of - is this reversible apron.  The blue floral fabric is cut from a long, thick, piece of vintage linen that I snaffled up at a vide grenier in France this summer.  It is embellished with more vintage loveliness - an embroidered doily that I found at our local antiques fair a few weeks ago.

And because it is a reversible apron, you can flip it over for a bit of Kaffe Fassett mad colour if the mood takes you!  I've put a towel loop and some buttons on this side.

You can also find some really lovely peg bags for washing day.

I am so pleased with the design of these.  I was getting really aggravated at fishing around in a too-small, too-tight, too-old peg bag that I decided to make something that I could just hang on a hook and grab pegs from.  I put just one wide handle on, and then boxed the corners at the bottom of the bag so that it would stand up by itself.

There are also bread bags, face cloths and long, bright strings of bunting.  Go and have a look.  I'm heading back to the sewing machine now!

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Out and about

Statue of a ballerina, outside the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden
Central London on a damp September morning:
  • Functional sports raincoats on the tube - Altura, Berghaus and Peter Storm.  Just one, rather dashing, belted trench coat.
  • An exchange of travel stories in the Primrose Bakery - "darling, there was a spider THIS big and she didn't even blink!"
  • A large, tofu-coloured van, delivering tofu to the Royal Opera House.
  • Europe's largest bookshop getting ready for an important book signing on Friday. The staff were fretting about whether there were enough sofas on the first floor.
  • A policeman on a Piccadilly Line train, standing feet apart, arms folded, staring down the length of the carriage.  I thought to myself, what a great way to people watch.
  • Enticing smells coming from the bistros and cafes in Covent Garden.
  • Small children from schools all over London visiting the British Museum to look at the Egyptian mummies - "It's GROSS!  They have jars full of BRAINS!".

I'd got cabin fever from sitting in the house sewing for the best part of two weeks, so I treated myself to a morning out today. 

I went to the British Museum (via a mysteriously circuitous route that also incorporated Waterstones in Piccadilly and the Primrose Bakery in Covent Garden) with my iPod, so that I could listen to some of the podcasts of A History of the World in 100 Objects, whilst looking at the objects themselves.

I have been meaning to do this since the podcasts began back in January.  But every time I go to the museum, I seem to have C or O with me, and gazing at a miniature Incan gold llama for fifteen minutes while I listen to a podcast on my headphones is not very interesting for them.  This had to be a solitary pleasure.

I went, I listened, I saw and I had a lovely time.  Sometimes the solitary pleasures really are the best ones.

Friday 24 September 2010

Random whatevers

Little things which have brought a smile to my face this week.
  • At a secondary school open evening, O asking our hulking great fifteen-year-old male tour guide "do you learn ballet at this school?"
  • Remembering that with everyone else at school or work, I can enjoy eating those things that nobody else will eat.  Like prawns.
  • Finding out that a good friend has acquired her first hens.  I always like to see more people joinging the club.  Someone else has new ones too - including a very pretty speckeldy.
  • Cooking so many wonderful dishes from the new Nigella Lawson cookbook - Kitchen.  It might be her best yet - but I always say that.  The biggest hits so far have beeen the strawberry and almond crumble (cooked strawberries - controversial!  but it works) and the Indian spiced roast potatoes.
  • My nearly eleven-year-old using the words 'random' and 'whatever' in one sentence.  I feel that if I shut my eyes for a moment he might turn into a teenager.
  • Planning and sewing for my Etsy shop - coming very soon!

Monday 20 September 2010

Strawberries for my girl - finally

I had to stay up until 2:30am to finish hand stitching the binding last night - but it is finally done.

O's strawberry quilt.  Yes, you probably though it was done a long time ago.  It should have been.  I've written about it here and here and I realise now, looking at these links, that I started it nearly eighteen months ago!  I've made three other quilts in the time that this one has been on the go.

I don't know why it has been so slow.  O has been very patient, and has never nagged me to get on with it (although perhaps she should have done).  She just hugged me and wrapped herself up in it this morning when I gave it to her.

Some details for all you statistics and quilt fans out there:
  • The pattern was adapted from one in Material Obsession.  I love that book - and the second one in their series too.
  • The fabric for the squares is a mixture of Cath Kidston, Ikea, old skirt fabric from Boden and H&M, Kaffe Fassett, Tanya Whelan, Alexander Henry, and perhaps a couple of others. 
  • The border around each panel and on the bindings is TA Dot by Michael Miller.  I love this and used it for the binding on the quilt I made for myself too.
  • The main fabric on the back is made from an Anna Maria Horner flannel fabric - the Diamond Mine pattern in Sweet Pink.  I love this cotton flannel - it is extremely soft and cosy.  I'll definitely be using it again.
  • The stripe on the back is made up from scraps of all the tops, skirts and cushions I have made for O over the years.  I'm glad I put this in to break up the sugary pinkness and add a few more memories.
  • It is vast - the only place I can photograph it properly is hung on our front railings.  The neighbours came out to exclaim and coo when I pegged it up and started snapping this morning.

And I am a pro at mitred corners now.  Even when I have to do them in the early hours of the morning.

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Reminding myself why I love London

Seen on the tube between South Woodford and Piccadilly Circus:
  • 3 people wearing Converse plimsolls
  • 5 people listening to iPods
  • 4 people reading the Metro
  • 4 people reading books
  • nobody reading an e-reader
  • 1 person asleep
  • 2 women wearing black woollen tights (one of them with black Converse plimsolls - very good)
  • 3 people texting, emailing or playing games on their smart phones (or maybe reading ebooks actually?)
  • 2 men wearing suits and ties
  • 1 sleepy-looking teenager carrying a yellow vuvuzela in a matching yellow Selfridges bag

Seen at the Sargent and the Sea exhibition at the Royal Academy:
  • sunsets over the mid-Atlantic
  • boys playing on a Normandy beach
  • Breton oyster sellers carrying unwieldy baskets on their hips
  • pencil sketches of rigging and furled sails
  • stormy seas
  • the grey skies of Whitby
  • the saturated heat of a Mediterranean beach
  • gondolas in Venice

John Singer Sargent, 'En Route pour la pĂȘche (Setting Out to Fish)', 1878.
I met my parents at the Royal Academy today, and we went to see the Sargent exhibition together.  Every aspect of my day reminded me why I love living in London so much:
  • The entertainment that is to be found by people-watching on the tube.
  • The ease with which the tube whizzes us around this enormous city.  Londoners like to moan about the tube, and admittedly commuting endlessly on it is tiring and crowded, but secretly I think it is wonderful.
  • The endless exhibitions, shows, plays, sports and other activities that are put on for Londoners and visitors all through the year.  There is no need ever to be bored living in London.
I am starting to put together a list of the things I want to do around London this autumn.  So far my list looks like this:
  • trips to Kew Gardens to see autumn colour and smell the damp earth
  • The Glasgow Boys exhibition at the Royal Academy
  • A late evening visit to the Natural History Museum.  Like almost all of the big London museums, the NHM opens late on a Friday evening and puts on special events, free to the public.  I really like the look of this one next week, and am wondering if the children would be up for an evening trip out
  • A series of walks to explore the Lee Valley Regional Park, which runs within walking distance of our house, and about which I know almost nothing.
  • A visit to the Olympic Park, which is going up really fast and gives me tingles of excitement every time I see it.
  • Another visit to see the Egyptian mummies at the British Museum, because O is studying the Ancient Egyptians at school this term, and I never tire of the British Museum and its amazing roof.
What are your favourite London destinations? Where do you head for first if you are visiting for a day?

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Delegation is where it's at

Despite my love of funky lunchboxes, I do so hate making packed lunches.  I've been making them several times a week since C started in Reception.  He is now in Year 6, so that is a great many packed lunches and a great many mornings sighing as I slapped ham into rolls and wondered if I had run out of juice boxes.

But no more.

There is a new regime around here.

Last year I got so fed up with O coming home each day with most of her packed lunch untouched, that I insisted she had school dinners for a term (at least if she didn't eat anything I was not the one having to throw away leftovers).  Within a week she declared that school lunches were delicious and they were much better than packed lunches anyway because she got to sit at a bigger table than the lowly packed lunch people.

That left C, who was a harder nut to crack because he does love ham sandwiches, and he insisted that packed lunches were healthier and tastier than school lunches because I put so much fruit in them (he knows how to flatter me).  We reached a compromise whereby he had school dinners twice a week to save my sanity, and packed lunches three days a week to save his.

But even those three days a week were sending me over the edge.  Making a packed lunch week in, week out, and year after year is just so uninspiring and tedious. 

So over the summer holidays I decided that the time had come for C to start making his own packed lunches.

And really, I don't know why I didn't think of this before.  He is more than capable.

All I need to do is make sure that there is bread and fruit in the house, and he can do the rest.  When I came downstairs to take these pictures this morning I found him washing lettuce and listening to Radio 2.

Quite the picture of domesticity, and a much nicer start to the day than me gazing into the fridge and sighing.

Friday 3 September 2010

If it is packed away tidily, it is not rubbish

I came back from Switzerland with loads of nice maps, exotic-looking train tickets, timetables, brochures and postcards that I had accumulated while I was away.

I didn't need this pile of paper once I was home, but at the same time it was so evocative of our trip that I could not bear to throw it away.  It sat on my desk for a week - a tottering pile of redundant Swiss information.

And after a while I decided that if it all had a nice folder to live in, it could be stored on a shelf and would no longer need to be described as rubbish.  A paper folder might be seen as temporary over time, but surely a custom-made fabric folder would attach some kind of posterity to these souvenirs?

So this week I made myself a folder to store all these sentimental bits of information in.

There are two large pockets (18cm by 18cm) for postcards, timetables and maps.  And there is one smaller pocket (10cm by 10cm) for train and bus tickets.  The pockets are all lined, and have thick interfacing in them as well so that they stay nice and stiff and do not sag under the weight of the paper. 

I sewed the pockets onto a rectangle of quilting weight cotton (46cm by 30cm).  Then I cut a matching rectangle of leftover quilt wadding and final rectangle of quilting cotton and made a quilt sandwich with them.  I sewed through all the layers along the spine of the folder and then enclosed all the raw edges with binding.  To stop the folder from falling open I added velcro tabs to each corner.

For the front I knew I wanted a label.  I started embroidering Switzerland and the date onto some scrap calico, and then realised I would have to embroider a flag as well.  The Swiss love their flags as the Americans do, and Swiss flags were fluttering from almost every shop, restaurant and house that we saw.  Happily the Swiss flag is much easier to embroider than the American one.

The Swiss use a great deal of black in their designs and crafting so I added a black flourish in as well.  I stitched the label onto the front of the folder, and then added underneath a very short length of some Swiss ribbon that I had brought back with me.  I love this ribbon and how it uses such typical Swiss colours and Alpine flowers.  They use this ribbon on all kinds of traditional clothes, as well as bags, dog leads and cow bell harnesses.  I even saw a bicycle saddle decorated with it.

So the folder is done, and now sits on my shelves making me feel very organised in a Swiss sort of way.  And whenever I want to reminisce about some of the walks we did, I now know exactly where to find that map.