Friday, 28 May 2010

A perfect day for a bargain hunting expedition with a friend

Blogland brought us together and we had our first meet up in St Albans last Autumn and today in glorious sunshine I met with Serenata in Hitchin for a bargain hunting expedition.  Hitchin is a little gem for individual shops, charity shops, vintage shops and the Friday Flea Market.  I had hoped for a full day's shopping but had to cut short the day due to a last minute childminding commitment but we nevertheless had three lovely hours browsing and buying and of course a coffee break in Starbucks.

Armed with our trusty dolly trolleys .... don't laugh .... oh go on then we did when we first met to find we had almost identical trolleys (see Serenata's post for a lovely photo of the pair of them having a well earned rest outside the Parish Church) off we went.  Our first stop was the flea market and my first purchase was from a lady who sells vintage linens who I visit regularly and today for the grand sum of 50p I came away with this table mat hand embroidered in the traditional oriental willow pattern.

We wandered on past all sorts of vintage bits and pieces and the next thing to catch my eye was this blue & white transferware plate.  I have had a passion for this for quite a long time now and the skill to transfer these scenes onto a copper plate and then onto ceramics never ceases to amaze me.

My favourite bit is getting home and researching the design to identify the pattern name, maker and date of manufacture.  My blue & white bibles are The Dictionary of Blue & White Printed Pottery by A W Coysh and R K Henrywood, in two volumes and they are packed with photographs and history.

How pleased was I to find that this rimmed soup dish costing £2.50 (which has no markings on the back to help) dates to the 1820s and was made in Burslem, Staffordshire by the factory of John & Richard Riley.  The pattern is Eastern Street Scene and it is a composite of two prints by T & W Daniell from their Oriental Scenery collection.  The tree on the left is from "The Sacred Tree of the Hindoos at Gyah, Bahar" and the buildings to the right are from "View on the Chitpore Road, Calcutta".  Here are pictures of the original prints

Weren't they so clever all those years ago in comparison with the junk that is manufactured theses days.

We wandered on and my next find was an embroidered table cloth for a whole £3 to add to my stash of vintage cloths for upcycling or re-purposing into something else to give them a new lease of life.

Serenata bagged some lovely bargains too which can be seen on her post today here

Our last stop together was the lovely shop called Rosita Lollipop and after a chat with the lady looking after the shop today it transpires that there is to be a vintage fair in the town on 11th July so that date is now down in my diary.

Thank you for a lovely meet Serenata ..... elevenses on me next time ;-)

What have I been doing this evening?  Well apart from enjoying the rare bliss of having the house to myself I have been machining and pressing some more blocks for the next quilt.  It is half term next week and my childminding service is closed to give me some time to finish my stock for the fair in Berkhamsted on the 5th June and hopefully to give the house a good top to bottom clean .... it sure does need it I am shamed to say.

Fingers crossed for some bank holiday weekend bargain hunting weather .... have a good one whatever you have planned x

Monday, 24 May 2010

Another scorcher and more booty bargains

What a glorious day again today and I wanted some shade to sit in to read the paper and then do some sewing.  I have to wear prescription sunglasses but they are for distance & light sensitivity so I can't see to do close up work when wearing them and can't risk a migraine if I take them off.  So up went the new gazebo this morning ..... I felt like lady muck sitting there with my feet up just listening to the birds and finishing off the latest quilt.  I hope to update my webshop at some point this week and I will be taking my work to this event on Saturday 5th June .... I visited a few weeks ago and decided that it would be worth giving it a go.

This one has Laura Ashley blue polkadot & ditsy rose, Cath Kidston classic rose, some CKesque floral, blue striped ticking with a pale blue cotton backing.

I then spent some time cutting up the last of my vintage chintz in readiness to make some more string blocks.  I was going to start machining them this evening but I've just got back from DD2s house ... she recorded the last episode of Lost this morning and I couldn't wait till tomorrow to watch in on normal TV.  I am not usually a fan of American series and can't stand Friends, SATC or Desperate Housewives but this one got me hooked.  In fact we even went so far as to purchase some DVDs of Season 3 off the internet before it was screened over here and spent the whole night watching the lot.  Not sure if I can explain what the attraction was (apart from Jack and Sawyer that is!) but I just had to watch .... what am I going to do at 9pm on a Friday evening now????  Ashes to Ashes finished too ... I never watched Life on Mars or the previous Ashes series but again got hooked onto the last one.  Maybe it was because of the music and the 80s atmosphere was so authentic (you really had to be around then to appreciate the humour and I was ... the 80s was my most productive time in the biggest sense as it was when I had my four children).

The sewing will have to wait till later tomorrow as I have to take my mum to hospital for a scan and the poor thing has to drink a load of water before she goes so she will be fit to burst.

Despite the searing heat yesterday I just couldn't stay away from the car boot .... DD2 was selling so I took the children.  Ellie is becoming a fantastic little bargain hunter and takes her own purse to buy things ... it is a great way of introducing littlies to the value of money and also handling it thru working out which coins she will need to pay with.  She was really lucky yesterday and found some brand new floor puzzles including The Gruffalo, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Giant ELC Farm Puzzle and her current favourite The Care Bears.  Baby Annabell clothes are a favourite also and she can spot anything Annabell from a mile off!

I didn't do too bad myself either and came home with two BNIP Sanderson Double Duvet & Pillowcase sets and matching curtains for the grand total of £10 .... I couldn't believe my luck!  Also a pair of brand new L K Bennett mules and a Zara Sport Linen top which were only a pound each ..... lovely jubbly.

Finally is it just me or is anyone else experiencing difficulties when posting .... the photo positioning seems to have gone backwards to how it was months ago and it has taken me ages to get them in the right order.  Very frustrating !

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Oh what a bootiful morning .... oh what a beautiful day

I awoke early to an empty house as the others were all on early shifts and on such a beautiful morning there was only one place I was heading ... OK two .... I headed off to Buntingford Car Boot for 8 am and then went on to another just a ten minute drive away and they were both absolutely jam packed.  Here is some of my booty for today

A flow blue gravy boat, empty glass bottle in the shape of the Eiffel Tower, two diddy glass jelly moulds, two balls of Rowan cotton yarn

A beaded orange dress from Next which was new with the tags still attached, a collection of lovely old Ladybird books

A vintage Spong mincer unused and boxed with a sticker for the London Design Centre and another vibrant orange summer dress
Hungry Caterpillar floor puzzle and Roary the Racing Car mini track

Some embroidered table napkins, table cover, crisp cotton chair backs

I also purchased a load of plants for my hanging baskets ..... total spend £40

I must have a little whinge now .... I lost count of the number of pushchairs I passed with babies and young children with absolutely no protection from the searing heat of the sun .... what is the matter with people ... I do hope that the little ones are not suffering tonight because of the stupidity of their parents.

When I got back home I thought I would take the dogs over the fields as they are just mooching about the house and seem reluctant to go down the garden since the events of Tuesday.  Last night around ten they went absolutely beserk and barked like mad which is totally out of character for them.  I can only think that the fox had returned in the hope of finding another free meal.  We had a lovely peaceful walk around the fields when I suddenly realised I had dropped my keys .... I had to backtrack and instead of a half hour walk we were out for nearly two!  I couldn't find them so rang my DD2 on the off chance she was at home .... I was so lucky and caught her before she went off to St Albans with the children so she went to my house and got the spares and delivered them to me.  By this time we had finished all of our water and I was as red as a beetroot ... good job I'd used the sun cream this morning or things could have been a lot worse.  A couple of hours ago when OH got home we went up there again and he found them in a clump of grass where I'd stopped to pick up some poo ... they must have fallen out of my pocket .. oops!!

And finally I have made some more photo cushions with some of my favourite family photos .. this is the day Jack was born last year and I took a pic of his tiny little foot against his sister's slightly larger one
From my son's wedding last year a shot of the bride and Ellie the bridesmaid tripping the light fantastic

Ellie in a studio shot
My friend's daughter took this B & W shot of Ellie
I hope you have had a wonderful sunny Saturday and here's to a sunny Sunday too x

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

A New Dawn, A New Day ....

In the words of Nina Simone and latterly the luscious Michael Buble it is a new dawn of a brand new day. 

Following the carnage that greeted me at the bottom of the garden yesterday and with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach I have had to brace myself to go down and clean out the chicken coop.  It was so silent and the dogs just sat watching me, they have been very subdued and so have the cats.  Mr Fox must have made a return visit because last night Ruby was barking like mad and some of the wire fencing had been pushed over in the run and it wasn't like that yesterday. 

The hardest part was explaining to the children why the chickens weren't there.  However, it is amazing how philosophical 9 year olds can be and we chatted about how happy they had made us, what lovely eggs they gave and that they were happy too in their short lives.   I  think that chatting to children about the darker side of life is very important in the right context and setting unlike my late in-laws who swept the nasty things under the carpet.  This has resulted in a grown man who just cannot handle his feelings and bottles everything up.  He is blaming himself now for letting them out too early, they usually don't go out until I am up and the dogs are in the garden but as it was such a lovely morning he let them out at half five when he left for work.

Anyhow back to the new day and let's think of something nice.  I spent yesterday evening working on a little idea for personalised cushions and finished this

Using iron-on transfer paper, the sort used to make T-shirts, I have made the centrepiece of this cushion cover with the vintage photo of my great grandparents Bertie and Florence with their three eldest children Eric, Clarice and little Florence.  Bertie & Florence were both born in Suffolk and moved to Bedfordshire in the early 1900s.  Bertie's father and his father before him had been farriers/blacksmiths but as the new century dawned and sanitation/running water came about, Bertie adapted his skills to plumbing.  He must have been doing alright judging by this posed studio photo. 

I have given it a border of vintage lace and 1930s chintz around the edge.  My thinking is that I can take this as an example to the craft fair next month and if people like the idea all they need to do is e-mail me their favourite photo and I will do the rest.  I am hoping to start a couple more later but we will see how this new day pans out.

Thank you all for your kind comments left yesterday xx

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Don't look now if you are squeamish

A very angry and emotional post this morning so I will keep it short.  Just before we left for the school run I went down to feed the chooks their daily ration of sweetcorn as I always do to be greeted with the most horrendous sight.

Five of my girls lay with their heads ripped off and Babs is missing completely.  It looks like Reynard has made an early visit to us and had his fun.  After seeing this my feelings are that the sooner they bring back fox hunting the better.  Don't be fooled by that doggy look and fluffy tail .... they are evil.  My chicken run has six foot wooden fencing down one side and 6 foot wire on the others but the b......d still managed to get in.  We are not in the countryside this is urban fox at his worst.  The thought of the terror he must have inflicted on them is unbearable.  So before anyone gets sentimental over Mr Foxy Woxy take a look at this.

Brutal I know but what was I saying about Mother Nature yesterday.

As I sit here now in the morning sunshine I have to decide on the last resting place in the garden and how to explain it to the children later.  I a very sad and very very angry.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Who's a pretty boy then ????

A few weeks ago I posted this and you may remember this little chap

Well here he is today with his siblings ... all are independent and feeding themselves.  Isn't Mother Nature wonderful.

These two little cuties are budgie babies .....

They are both from the same nest .... the one on the right of the photo is 4 weeks old and his little brother is a week behind him.

They will both grow into pretty blue budgerigars.

The breeding season this year started off very well with 69 budgie eggs laid but sadly only a handful were viable and the cold snap of the past weeks has resulted in a lot of canary babies not surviving.  I suppose it is all down to survival of the fittest and we can't argue with the laws of nature.

Whilst the OH has been busy tending his babies I've been busy building up more stock for the craft fair in a few weeks time. 

These are now  ....

and I've also finished an embroidered linen cover too

Can I also thank all you lovely ladies for the comments left on my last post about the dilemma of pricing ..... there were some very useful thoughts that I have taken on board and wise words from Pam about offsetting the price against smaller items made from the leftover pieces of fabric ..... I feel some more string items coming on ;-)

I've been hunched over the machine for the past hour working on another patchwork quilt and my shoulder is throbbing so I'm going to put my feet up now with a cuppa and Country Living magazine.

Take care everyone and keep smiling :-)

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Crafting and pricing .... the eternal dilemma

A recurring theme on a lot of crafters' blogs seems to be at what level do we price our makes.  Obviously the cost of materials has to be covered and then there is the time and effort put in also otherwise it is a complete waste of time and energy making anything to sell.  I am no different and now have to sit and seriously think about the pricing on my makes for the craft market in a few weeks time and would really like to build a little cottage industry in my three bed semi!

To that end can I pick your brains a little please?  This is a cot bed size (112 cm x 124 cm) patchwork quilt made with a mix of Cath Kidston, Laura Ashley and Michael Miller fabrics .... it has a new polyester wadding filling and is backed in a very good quality cotton from Jill Northam.

How much would you pay???  Be honest please and it will be a great help to me in the coming weeks so that I don't either oversell or undersell.

Thanks xxx

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

I've taken the plunge!

I keep making all these quilts, throws, cushions etc etc etc and now must make a real effort to sell them.  As with most of us crafters I'm not very good at marketing myself and all this networking business is new to this old timer.  I must admit in the past I have poo pooed it somewhat but since joining blogland and many other crafting forums I can now see that it is the perfect way to move forward.  My photography skills are very limited and I struggle to show my makes at their best so internet selling for me is somewhat limited as I think they have got to be seen 'in the flesh' to be fully appreciated.

So, I have booked for two craft markets to be held in June and July.  The first is in the lovely market town of Berkhamsted at a pefect venue in the centre of the high street and the second one is in another market town close to me in Hitchin.  I am nervous but excited and will have my daughter and friend with me for support and if I sell just one thing I will be a very happy Lala.  Both dates will be perfect opportunities to distribute some business cards and meet fellow crafters.

Yesterday I started a small throw and played around for a while with some pieces of 1930s vintage chintz fabric with the most amazing Oriental birds.  These were old chair covers which I unpicked, gently washed and pressed last year and I thought they complimented the embroidered cloth beautifully.  I tend to do my own thing and don't very often follow a pattern .... I am self taught and apart from needlework class at school I have had no formal training and prefer to work on a trial and error basis, sometimes coming back to UFOs when another idea has popped into my brain cell.  Tonight I finished and here is the end result.

The backing is a dusky pink sateen finish cotton which was given to me by the lady I bought my sewing machine from ... her MIL had died and she needed a home for her sewing bits and pieces so there I was with my hand up!

Some scraps of fabric found in a tatty cardboard box at a boot fair, a table cover from the charity shop and some freebie fabric given new life ..... my idea of perfect recycling.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Bank Holiday Monday Tranquility

After a busy week and even busier weekend, today all small people were banned from Lala Towers.  Today was strictly 'me' day.  Sad thing that I am I was in bed just after 9 last night and woke refreshed to start my day at 7 o'clock.

True to my word I have managed to finish four cushion covers today ... two to match the quilt on my last post and two more from blocks from the 'no strings' challenge.  They are all envelope back with polkadot or gingham check backing.

It's so rewarding to finish projects .... I am a terror for starting things and then getting a little (oh alright a lot) bored and moving onto something else without finishing.  My sewing desk is testament to this with little piles of different colour co-ordinated string, some finished string blocks, patchwork squares and offcuts from vintage table covers patiently waiting to be used.

Last night I also finished a crochet cushion cover in soft pastel cotton .... the front is four squares and the backing is in the same colours but in traditional granny square style.  I'm also using up odds and ends of cotton yarn to make crochet coat hanger covers with little crochet/knitted flowers.

I hope you have all had a lovely long weekend whatever you've been up to x

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Where did April go??

I feel as though I blinked and there flashed by April ..... I don't know about you but I think we were rather blessed with some fine weather after such a long and wet winter.  The garden is waking up with splashes of colour here and there  and I've tasted the first crop of rhubarb .... Delia's Rhubarb Brulee recipe highly recommended

I have no idea what this is called because the label has long since blown away but at this time of year it blooms with these clusters of yellow bell type flowers

Grape Hyacinths

Pieris Forest Flame

my early Clematis just waiting to pop

and on my visit to Barton Watermill this week I spotted a lovely plant growing outside and was delighted to find one for sale in the garden centre ..... a blue Clematis called Blue Dancer

Bleeding Hearts


and in anticipation of a glorious warm summer this little lady went to the salon for her first groom .... she was so well behaved and looks gorgeous

I've had a brief respite from childcare for a few hours this afternoon and managed to finish another patchwork quilt ... this one is a mix of Laura Ashley polkadot and gingham with a splash of Cath Kidston classic rose ... I have some more squares already cut and hope to make some cushion covers over the coming couple of days.  The grands are on sleepover tonight so we're going to snuggle down soon with BGT and I'll get my crochet hook out.

Hope you all have a lovely Bank Holiday whatever you are doing x