Sunday, 29 May 2011

Another lovely giveaway for you

Now, if any of you dear readers are feeling in need of a little present to assuage the stresses and strains of everyday life, then do read on, as I have a little giveaway for you (as well as a little story, you didn't think you would get away without one, did you?).

This is a tale of a dreamer and her buttons ...

There are buttons which were bought on adventures in the far north and west all tucked away in a basket which arrived in the post from the Head Chef many moons ago (it never ceases to amaze me that he remembered the name of the shop in Bath where I gazed on it in mute adoration and he seemed to ignore me, only to ring them later and arrange for it to be delivered into my own fair hands).

There is a tin full of my inheritance from my dear departed grandmamma - where on earth did she get all of those yellow buttons from? I never saw her wearing such a sunflower shade of yellow ...

And a tin of odds and bods and singles in all sorts of jolly colours ...

Not to mention a Penhaligons Bluebell soap box full of quite aged buttons in sober colours, enlivened by some bright and sparkling gold.

So what is one to do with such a treasury of buttons? I have stitched them on cardis, and embellished T-shirts; I have put them on pincushions and needlecases, but still the tins are overflowing.

I was at quite a loss as to how to be inventive with buttons, but then the lovely people at Search Press sent me a book which offers some wonderfully creative solutions to a surfeit of buttons.

Button Jewellery by Marrianne Mercer, in the Twenty to Make series, has some lovely ideas for simple to make button jewellery.

I particularly like these bracelets which make use of the sort of metallic buttons which were originally spares from men's blazers and vintage suits, or mixed brightly coloured singles ...

And these bag charms, which also make the most of those single metallic buttons:

So if you fancy trying out some of the button jewellery ideas in this lovely little book, then I have a copy to give away, courtesy of the kind people at Search Press.

Entry is open to anyone, anywhere - just leave me a comment below - or if you are having trouble commenting (as I know that some bloggers are), just email me to enter. Please, if you are entering via commenting, make sure that you put your email address in the comment box, or put your email in your profile, and make your profile accessible to others, otherwise I can't email you to tell you that you have won!

And if you have any more ideas for using up a button stash, then I would love to hear them!

As it is half-term for many people this week or next, I will leave the giveaway open for a couple of weeks to give you time to enter - the closing date will be Sunday, 15 June.

Friday, 27 May 2011

A quilt top, and a wave of aestheticism

The Rose Parade quilt top is complete but it will not be keeping me warm on my holiday sofa this summer; instead it is now on its way to gracing the bed of a princess, a princess who had no call for a quilt until she saw this one in progress.

She stepped in, gave me a little guidance as to fabric arrangements and preferences, and is taking me to town to choose the backing fabric tomorrow.

Blowing in the wind - again

So here is the QUIP moving QUIFward, although it is nigh on impossible for the photographic amateur to get a good picture of a quilt on a tempest-tossed washing line (I had a professional photographer to stay last night, who also complained about the wind, so maybe it isn't just me), but I did rather like the stained glass effect of the reverse side (which also shows up any imperfections in the seams), and the princess is delighted with the finished result (which is a relief).

The art of seaming, or don't look too closely

Although princesses tend to smile sweetly and gaze admiringly on one's belongings in a longing sort of way, and charm them out of one's possession (a Cath Kidston handbag and purse come to mind), their presence in the house does offer some advantages, viz:

1. One now has a valid reason for taking out a subscription to Selvedge (on her behalf, of course) in the furtherance of her artistic leanings;

2. One also has a valid reason for taking a trip up to the Great Wen to visit the V&A (again) all for the sake of the cultural education of the younger generation. (Thrifty hint: there is the most wonderful charity shop almost opposite, where I found the most delectable floral frock last time.)

The trip may not be to the 'too utterly utter' Cult of Beauty exhibition, which was so utterly utter that I want to see it again, and am looking for somebody to come with me, but this time to Yohji Yamamoto (all very cutting edge for a granny fashionista). I have inhabited the nineteenth century so long, that it will do me good to face up to the present one (and the generation gap is made explicit in that the princess in dire need of a cultural education sees a distinction between 'twentieth-century fashion' and 'modern fashion', whereas I in my dotage did not).

If you need to dig a hole, ask a Ploughboy

So I have been reflecting on the way in which my family, young and old, are of great service to me: the Head Chef does bins, drains, and heavy lifting; the Ploughboy will dig a hole anywhere on request, and keeps me up to date with tractor specs; the General is always there for a conversation on typography and the wonders of the Interweb, and I have told you how Princess Bunchy is a great facilitator of unselfish expenditure.

Heavy lifting

I really only wanted to drop in briefly and tell you an everyday story of a quilt, but a shaggy dog wrestled me to the ground and I am beginning to feel quite Aesthetic: as I float off I wish you all an utterly utter weekend, filled with beauty, floral frocks, and a smiling, helpful family.

Beauty and the bin

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Picking winners

Today is the day for picking winners! I am thinking now that it would have been simpler to use one of those random number generators, but I like to encourage family participation, so I asked Teddy-Face if she would help me with the giveaway winner selection.

Teddy-Face was very keen, and excitedly followed me outside with my big bowl of bits of paper (don't ask me how long it took to fold all those bits of paper up, and there was no family to be seen at 7.30 this morning when I was beavering away). I also think it would have been better to choose a less windy day - it would have saved me chasing around the garden after bits of paper. (I also had to stand on the winners to prevent them from being carried off.)

Teddy-Face must have misheard me at first - I think she thought that I had said 'rabbits', as she burrowed in the flower bed for a moment, but then she set to, stirring all the bits of paper up nicely.

Do I smell biscuit?

I was not quite sure that it would work, as Teddy-Face has a round little face, perhaps not so good at daintily picking out pieces of paper as the Naughty Dog with the long, pointy, trouser-nipping snout, but when I suggested that the latter helped in the task, she hid under the kitchen table as if I had told her that I was about to get the mop out (she doesn't like mops or vacuum cleaners, which is why don't use them very much in my cottage, not wanting to traumatize the Naughty Biter, of course).

Are there any more in there?

But my secret weapon was a few dog biscuits (Senior Light, of course, we don't want Teddy-face putting on any more weight) tucked in underneath the paper pieces. You might just glimpse them at the bottom of the bowl.

Oh dear, all gone!

As you will see, Teddy-face became slightly distracted from the winner-picking task, as she rooted around for the biscuits, but when she had satisfied herself that there were no more Senior-Light to be had, I noticed that she had done what I asked and tossed out a couple of pieces of paper into the flowerbed.

Blowing in the wind

So we have two winners! I was so overwhelmed by the response (I really didn't imagine that I would have so many entries, or so many new followers) that I decided it would be fair to make up two prizes, in different colourways, just to even out the odds.

And in case you were worried about the waste of paper, you can see that I was reusing old bits of knitting calculations (Karen is not 276 years old, I was just struggling with Peggy Sue's stitch count).

So congratulations to Karen L R and Harmony & Rosie: please could you email me your addresses so that I can send out your parcels.

Traces of the struggle with Peggy Sue

And commiserations to those of you who did not find Teddy-Face's favour this time - but I will be doing another giveaway quite soon, so I hope that you will all come back again and join in with that.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Giveaway day here, there, and everywhere

Today is the day when Sew Mama Sew organize a giveaway right across Blogland: lots of bloggers join in and offer giveaways, and the complete list is to be found on the Sew Mama Sew blog here if you would like to take a look.

So I thought that I would join in, and do a giveaway for all my lovely followers: I do appreciate the way in which you all stuck with me during my long absence, and so I just wanted to say thank you to you all for hanging on in there, and also for the kind emails enquiring after my wellbeing.

My giveaway is a special Pomona's cottage one, something handmade and something for you to make with. I will be sending out into the world a couple of sweet-smelling little lavender cushions made by my own fair hands, and stuffed with dried lavender from my own cottage garden, and I thought it would be fun for you to make some of these lavender cushions as a present for a friend, so I will include some charm squares, ribbon and lavender for you to make your own.

There will also be a few vintage buttons from my button box, too, in case you want to do some buttony embellishing. And I have a handy hint project which just uses one fat quarter, the instructions for which I will post on the day I announce the winner: I will also send you a fat quarter so you can make that too.

And last but not least, some rather nice motivational postcards from Pie Foundry graphic design.

Now we get to the nitty-gritty, terms and conditions bit of how the giveaway works. (I don't mind where you live, as long as there is a postal service.)

To enter, you need to be a follower of this blog (you can become one now via the Followers box in the right-hand sidebar) and you must make a comment on this post before the closing date (technically, this will be midnight BST on Wednesday, 25 May, but I will be in bed by then, so I will not do the draw until Thursday, 26 May, which should give all time zones a chance). The winner will be picked at random, so you don't have to answer a question, but gratuitous compliments are always welcome, of course.

Please make sure that you are contactable via your comment: if you are a no-reply blogger with no email address in your profile, you will need to put your email address in your comment (if I can't email you for your address, I can't post you a parcel, so you can't win!). Please also check your emails on Thursday, 26 May: if I do not get a response from the winner within 48 hours I will re-draw, as Sew Mama Sew require giveaway prizes to be posted by Monday, 30 May.

If you want an extra entry, then you could dedicate a whole blog post to my giveaway and link back to me (you can use one of the photos above if you would like), but you must be sure and tell me that you have done so in your comment so that I can take account of it.

And if you want to enter some more Giveaway Day giveaways, then I know that Amy at During Quiet Time is participating, as well as Mommy en France at Two Little Cabbages & Cie, so why not drop by and say hello from me? And remember, there are lots more listed on the Sew Mama Sew blog.

Good luck to you all!

Friday, 20 May 2011

A present in the bag and a giveaway to come

How times change! When I was a small girl, red and spotty meant that you had some unpleasant disease which required quarantine and absence from school.

Even in the Ploughboy's youthful lifetime, red and spotty meant medical emergency. On the day that he woke up covered in rather startling red blotches, and I took him to see the doctor, we were speedily despatched to hospital, where they wouldn't even let us into the children's ward. Instead we were confined to a little room while the red spots gradually disappeared as the Ploughboy became more interested in the toys. I was beginning to feel that I had imagined the red spots in the channelling of some childhood trauma when finally a medic ventured in to see us, but luckily the stress of medical attention brought the blotches out into a wonderful angry red again, and completely mystified the hospital staff.

We never did find out what caused them: his first taste of pheasant; chocolate; grubbing around in the dirt; or general parental incompetence, but they disappeared under the influence of copious quantities of piriton, never to reappear.

Of course, nowadays, and probably due to the benign and roseate influence of the Great Cath, red and spotty is the thing to be, and when I found myself in urgent need of a birthday present for a very stylish person, a red and spotty fat quarter and a Keyka Lou pattern came to my aid.

So a pleasant afternoon spent in the company of my sewing machine and the Easy Envelope Clutch Pattern, which comes in two sizes, produced these two rather charming little red and spotty numbers. The downloadable pattern is very clear and easy to follow, and comes with actual size pattern pieces.

I have made a resolution only to use books and patterns which come with full size pattern pieces to cut out.  I have one or two books in which the patterns at the back tell you to photocopy at 195% or some such completely unhelpful number which does not relate to the normal proportions between paper sizes, and (in my probable incompetence) I find this completely impossible to do on my little home printer. I know I could probably drive a few miles to a copy shop and pay for them to work it out and do the printing, but I would rather have a correctly-sized pattern, or pieces that will print easily on my A4 printer in the first place, especially when I have paid for the book.

So this is one of the reasons that I like Keyka Lou patterns, and the second is that the patterns leave nothing to my faulty imagination, and invariably turn out well at the first time of trying, thus maximizing my productivity on the last-minute present front.

(I won't mention the Saturday afternoon I wasted on a notebook cover I tried to construct from a book that promises to have you producing stitched creations in no time at all, where following the instructions to the letter produced a cover that, try as I might, I could not squeeze onto its notebook, and then had to be ripped up and turned into a lavender bag in the face of a present emergency.)

And such was the magnificence of the red and spotty effect of this birthday present, the recipient could not believe that I could possibly have made the little bags myself - which possibly tells you more about the deficiencies in my craft skills than their excellence, but I felt a warm glow of competence, which is quite unusual and most welcome.

For the fabric aficionados amongst you, I bought the red spotted fabric at the Vintage and Handmade Fair last year - I can't quite remember who from, but the very pretty trellis fabric in the background (which I am saving for myself) was from Donna at The Fabric of My Life, whilst the purse lining was made of some leftovers from a smock top which I made for a princess who grew out of it almost immediately, which was rather heartbreaking, but princesses will be princesses, and the bare midriff look is no longer all the go.

And finally, the red buttons are once more from my inheritance, my grandmamma's button tin, an inheritance which has proved its worth on many occasions.

So have a good weekend, make a few presents (take my advice, don't leave it to the last minute), and remember that Monday is giveaway day, so come back and say hello again then.

Monday, 16 May 2011

In which our heroine makes a QUIP, and offers a couple of hints regarding water usage and household safety

In an ideal world I would be revealing to you, my dear readers, a delightful series of completed projects, for  you to marvel at my industry and efficiency, and for me to tick off in my little notebook.

But alas it is not to be: the Head Chef headed westwards for a weekend of forest gardening with the guru of that discipline, Martin Crawford (I can highly recommend his book on the subject - it is worth buying for the pictures alone), leaving poor Pomona to man the barricades, feed the multitudes, and generally fulfil her domestic destiny.

So, much as I yearned for a relaxing couple of days, stitching and knitting and generally getting to the end of something that I had started, no, it did not come to pass.


But I did find one or two little interludes in which to work on my QUIP (which is a QUilt In Progress), which may or may not become a QUIF (QUIlt Finished).

Buoyed up by the success of my baby quilt, I have decided to step up my game and size up by making a quilt for a sofa. You may wish to point out that bedding does not commonly come in sofa size, but the jump from cot to single seemed an inordinately large one, and my most loyal followers might remember the holiday sofa which generally makes its appearance in June, and my penchant for falling asleep on it. A sofa quilt would keep me warm, and thus enable me to remain dozing on the sofa for even longer.

Bits of QUIP

As do so many things in my life, this quilt happened by accident. I just went out to buy some yarn for Peggy Sue, but I had one of those embarrassing moments in the yarn shop (which happens to be my favourite fabric shop as well). I had spotted some suitable yarn stacked up in a glorious rainbow of colour in one of those triangular cubby holes favoured by yarn shops, and reached out to take one teeny, tiny little ball in lavender, just for a quick fondle, and suddenly the whole multi-coloured caboodle came cascading out.

Now I have a rather highly developed startle reflex, and am apt to shriek quite unnecessarily, as my son the General often informs me, and I did emit a teeny, tiny little squeal of dismay. Another customer looked at me in a rather puzzling way, not entirely sympathetic, and I crawled around the floor trying to pick up the yarn and cram it back into its triangle, to no avail as all the little balls bounced right back out again as fast as I put them in.

QUIP taking shape

It was no good, I had to come clean and admit my little accident to the very charming lady who owns the shop; I was then of course morally obliged to buy the yarn for Peggy Sue. And as I backed away from the yarn, my flustered gaze fell on a layer cake of Rose Parade fabric by Moda.

Just the thing for another easy quilt, I thought, the same amount of squares but twice the size - I''ll be able to whizz them up together in an afternoon and make a sofa warmer. Ever optimistic, you might say, and I think you might be right.

First rule a diagonal line across 2 squares, RS together
Just the thing for another easy quilt, I thought, the same amount of squares but twice the size - I''ll be able to whizz them up together in an afternoon and make a sofa warmer. Ever optimistic, you might say, and I think you might be right. Of course, one thing leads to another, and the helpful little piece of backing card had lots of diagrams demonstrating the geometric permutations of a 10-inch square.

Stitch parallel lines a quarter of an inch away either side

I have always been irrationally fascinated by the fact that if you put two squares right sides together, rule along the diagonal, then stitch a parallel line a quarter-inch away on either side of the ruled line, and finally cut along the ruled line, as if by magic you produce two half-triangle squares. So this is what I did.

Snip along the line

And then when I had all my half-triangle squares I laid them out on our bed upstairs, and spent a great deal of time arranging and rearranging them, much to the bemusement of the Head Chef.

Separate and press seam to one side

And here is where I give you a hint on household safety. Do not start to run your bath, and then wander back into your bedroom to ponder over the arrangement of your QUIP squares, because you will start shifting the squares about in the pursuit of perfection, and your bath will surely overflow and cause a flood, unless you have a Head Chef on hand to turn the taps off in the nick of time.

Hey presto! A magic half-triangle square

And a little thrifty hint: do not then pull out the plug to drain out just enough water for you to get in the bath without causing another flood (remember Archimedes and his principle), and in the meantime wander back into the bedroom yet again to muse further on the ideal pattern of squares, for eureka, you will find that the water has all drained clean away and you will be faced with an empty bathtub, and if you are really determined on having a bath you will have to start running the water again (and you now know that this incurs a serious risk of flooding), not to mention the fact that you will have used up all the hot water, and the second bath will be lukewarm, and most dispiriting.

These hints come from one who knows, and I am beginning to wonder about the value of being a knowing sort, and would wish more to be an example to us all.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Something for the weekend: handmade happy

I would like to introduce you to some very dear, old friends of mine, but first, I want to extol the virtues of the handmade, and in doing so I am in the most august company.

As you troop out to the shops this weekend, I am sure that many of you will be off to buy birthday cards for your near and dear ones. How about making this weekend a handmade happy one, and instead of buying something mass-produced from a retail giant (they don't need your custom, and would you really miss them if they weren't there?), why not buy a work of art by choosing a handmade card?

If you buy a handmade card, you are buying something original and different, and the card becomes a special present, rather than an expensive waste of trees. No longer is it a throwing away of resources on an ephemeral product from a factory, but you are buying a little piece of art to keep, and something that will give your recipient pleasure; you will also be supporting an individual trying to earn a living on a small, creative scale.

'Where do I start?' you may ask, 'It is so easy to follow the taste of Mr Smith's buyer, and grab one off the shelf in the high street.'

Well, dear readers, I will make it easy for you and share the whereabouts of some distinctive and original handmade cards. I have just bought a couple of beautiful cards from Cathy at One Pink Goose (you can find her Etsy shop here), and a most lovely print. The picture above is of The Woman Who Planted Trees - I am sure I love it because she has long dark hair, a big woolly cardi, and gloves on - now who could that be?

Julia at Lineanongrata does the most wonderfully off the wall illustrations: you can tell how deeply I love the benevolent knitting sheep in that I have kept this postcard to myself, as I find myself unable to release it into the hands of a non-knitter ...

Benevolent knitting sheep from Lineanongrata

And Milly at Drawings from Nature does just that, drawings of objects from nature - this is the most beautiful set of cards in a gift folder, and even the folder has an exquisite illustration.

Cards by Milly at Drawings from Nature

The cards are special enough to frame, and the set would make the most lovely present; I haven't given mine away, because I treasure them so much.

Cards in nifty gift folder

My newest discovery is Mrs Eliot Books: Francesca not only sells cards from her prints, but the most tempting little miniature books. Her latest cards, which you will also find on her blog here, feature furniture of a 1960s vintage, just like I had in my dolls' house, and a Dala horse - again rather like mine. Did she visit my dolls' house when I was not looking?

A teeny tiny horse

This little horse used to sit on the sideboard in the dolls' house, but now resides on a blue and white china plate with a rather large Scottie dog (relatively speaking) and a very small white one, who as you will see has a habit of barking aggressively at other animals.

Creatures of memory and circumstance

I am hoping one day to wake up and find a rather larger furry Scottie dog waiting on my doorstep and asking to be adopted, as I still miss my little black friend from days of yore. Or even a full-size Dala horse to go a-galloping on over hill and dale, but these fair fancies are such stuff as dreams are made on, and I must remove myself back into the harsh realities of food and farming on a very small scale.

But I might just sneak a couple of hours with this book, which arrived in the post this morning, and is calling to me eagerly from the sofa ....

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Well wrapped up and digitally enhanced: a tale for our times

Until last week I was in danger of slipping down the wrong side of the digital divide, and becoming one of those lost souls about whom governments exercise themselves, and provide drop-in sessions at libraries. I am not one of those who sends messages tip-tapped out with their I-thumbs, and I was in possession of a mobile phone which surely qualified as vintage, if not antique, but then I like the distressed look (which is a Good Thing, as I am a Living Example of that look).

But so digitally unbalanced had I become, that I rarely used this aged piece of technology, and found myself slipping down that digital divide into an older generation who only carry a mobile phone 'for emergencies', and the little black brick just weighed down my bag, and stayed turned off for much of the time because it was such an effort to make the 'On' switch work (especially if my fingernails had become denuded by gardening without gloves on), and the punctuation button was cracked (and you can tell I am Yesterday's Woman, by the fact that I use punctuation in text messages) and even if the phone was switched on, so antique and vintage have my eyes become that it was all a bit of a struggle to read those tiny letters when a text came through.

 If it was too dark, or the sun was shining too brightly, or I was a touch fatigued, well, then, it hardly seemed worth the effort. And I could only use it at work if I went outside onto the front step, which is all right in the summer, but on a cold winter's day it was all a bit much.

But luckily one of the bright young things in the office (well, in fact, one of the few under-40s working in agriculture, such is the ageing of the workforce) took matters in hand and procured me a shiny new phone with big print and loud ringtone. (He told me that it wasn't a special needs phone for the digitally unbalanced, but I think he was being nice.)

So new and smooth and shiny is this phone that I began to fear for its safety in the deepest recesses of the capacious portmanteau (together with the capacious knitting bag) which accompanies me on my travels: my old mobile was originally labelled 'semi-rugged' and suitable for builders and such like. It made me feel quite hearty and adventurous when I first acquired it, and I can vouch for the fact that it has survived many a bounce on the floor, although possibly that is why it had become a little temperamental.

Now, although the General assured me that phones are really quite robust nowadays (why is it when a Young Person says 'nowadays' you immediately feel that you ought to be reaching for your Zimmer frame and hearing aid?), the Ploughboy asked what model I have (I could tell him because it is written on the front) and replied, 'Oh,' in rather a dismissive way (and honestly, he is such a nice boy, really) so I decided to mark my digital rebalancing with a bit of stitchery, as the sort of old person's model of mobile phone that I now possess seems to look a little fragile.

I have left the little pull-off sticker on the screen, just in case, even though my children informed me that the sticker is removable, in patient, kindly voices, the sort of tone one would use to someone slightly deaf and possibly slightly unhinged as well.

And you will see from the pictures the result is quite surprisingly pleasing - I am always surprised when things that I have made turn out pleasing, it must be something in my childhood. (Please ignore the scraps of thread - the camera has spotted what my poor old eyes did not - which do demonstrate that I really did make this dinky little phone pouch with my own dear hands.)

The pattern (which has two sizes) came from Keyka Lou, and even has a handy little pocket for business cards on the back (carrying business cards does make me feel quite executive and important, even if I don't come across many people to hand them to: it's the thought that counts).

There are lots of nifty patterns for purses and bags and pouches in Keykalou's shop, and I have to say that I can highly recommend this one. The instructions are so clear and simple (lots of nice pictures) and although I am a slow worker, and somewhat spatially challenged, not to mention easily distracted, it only took a couple of hours to make - probably just one hour for someone a little more efficient.

The fabrics were from the Tanya Whelan Ava Rose range, and you could make several of these phone cases from a couple of fat quarters; the button has been smiling at me from my button box for some time, and unfortunately the elastic is so vintage that it has rather lost its ping, so I had to add the stylish knot that you see.

And that's the end of my stitching for the day - back to Peggy Sue for a bit, or I might even be obliged to do some proper work, like address my overflowing filing tray, but that would be too distressing at this time of day, so I think I will leave that until tomorrow. And the Head Chef has gone out with a lot of sausages, so it looks like I might have to cook supper (he tells me it's very simple). I will go and consult How to Run Your Home Without Help, and possibly consider a blog post addressing staff problems and the busy housewife. Au revoir ...


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