Sunday, 29 June 2014

Edible bouquets

This is the time of year not only to pick bouquets, but to pick edible bouquets! Little bundles of herbal joy, in full bloom and flavour.

The roses are lush and beautifully scented, with branches full of buds ready for high summer. Lavender and the last of the chive flowers add a regal purple contrast, with fiery bronze fennel softening the background. Yarrow punctuates with its collection of miniscule white blossoms, though its scent is less than pleasant (but it gives the compost heap such a wonderful boost!)

Mint and lemon balm offer fragrant green leaves to mask the yarrow.

Prolific mint sits beside the rose bush
Lemon balm, left, towers over the slim, fern-like fronds of yarrow, lower centre, with oregano on the right (and I believe some mint creeping over in front of it!)

This bouquet is entirely edible/usable/medicinal. I love making up bunches to give as little gifts to friends this time of year, with recipes or tips for how to use each herb in the bouquet.

Here is a tiny version. Barely 3 inches high, it makes a sweet little posy fit for a fairy feast:

Little Flower gave me her itty-bitty, hand-painted sugar pot from her tiny tea set for a vase
Purple and white violas, lilac thyme blossoms, and the very first chamomile blossom make up this teensy bouquet, with oregano leaves filling in at the back.

I will continue to select herbs to use throughout the summer. As the chive blossom dies away, the hyssop takes its turn, one branch already pink with new blooms:

The nasturtium will be in flower by the end of the week, ready for a new edible bouquet:

The bronze fennel grows high above the lavender, its fiery, feathery leaves blurring the view. I will use these for weeks to come.

Perhaps I’ll write regular edible bouquet posts, featuring the soft sage leaves, sweet cicely, marsh mallow and sweet woodruff that I have my eye on in the herb border. Then I may be obliged to show you how I use them all in my cooking...

Hmmm, I’m feeling peckish now, snack time! Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!

Chrissie x

P.S. I wrote a similar edible bouquet post last summer, you can read it here

Friday, 27 June 2014

Bringing summer indoors

As the skies cloud over and we’re set for rain for the next few days, I thought I’d share my latest summery make:

I made a pair of summer cushions for the living room, using pretty fat quarters from here.

I had an image in my mind of what I wanted, but I couldn’t find a suitable pattern anywhere, so I decided to make one up! I had to be sneaky with the floral print – I have the fortune/misfortune of a husband with an opinion on the decor. Sometimes this is lovely, because it’s nice to bounce around decorating ideas, and we tend to like the same neutral colours and blue/green hues...
Our oh-so-neutral living room
...and he also supports my wackier brainstorms, like the willow branch bedroom mural I painted a few years ago:

...but other times, when I’m feeling particularly girlie and pink, I find the fact that he cares rather annoying, because he doesn’t necessarily want the living room to be decked out in blousy pink florals! (I indulge my feminine side in the kitchen, he knows that’s my turf.)

I envisaged a summer stripe cushion with a ditsy floral print peeking out. Surely it is it fresh and summery and not too girlie?

The back is a simple envelope opening in a neutral linen
The girls gave immediate thumbs up, and, happily, Darling Husband did, too. I think part of him was impressed by the fact that I created these rather than plonking down £50 at a shop for cushions...

And now the smaller sofa is in need of a pair of summer cushions. I still have some fat quarters from my bundle, I have images of appliqué swirling in my brain...

Enjoy the weekend and happy crafting!
Chrissie x

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Precious Mondays

When the rest of the world is groaning at the start of a new week, I’m savouring every moment of Monday.

For the past few weeks, and for not much longer, Monday is a day of peace and quiet.

Bunny and Darling Husband are out the door early to school and work, but Little Flower and I take our time getting started with the day. Lately we’ve found that Monday is our quiet time together, just the two of us.

We relax on the sofa, she watches Curious George, I sit beside her with a second cup of tea and fold laundry. Nothing exciting, but calm and content. After a busy weekend with family and friends, activities and excitement, we relish the slower pace of Monday morning.

Sometimes we’ll venture into town for a decadent breakfast featuring her favourite bacon sarnies (I craved meat when pregnant with her, and now she is the most carnivorous little girl!), other Mondays we’ll run errands and swing by the local playground. Once in a while we’ll tidy the house together – she loves toodling around with a squirty bottle of water and a cloth, polishing everything in her path. (I remember Bunny doing much the same, I don’t think she even knows the meaning of the word “clean” now...)

A new shawl in the works, and a tall glass of iced jasmine tea
Yesterday we played outside in the afternoon, then she lost herself in an imaginary world in her sandpit while I did some crochet.

Too soon Little Flower will be at primary school, Bunny will start secondary school, and the house will be buzzing on Sunday evenings and no doubt hectic on Monday mornings. Schedules to follow, plans to keep. I hold my Little Flower close on these last few aimless Mondays. I appreciate them as much as any big school awards day or music concert.

Chrissie x

P.S. I’m having real trouble with Blogger at the moment – only one blog at a time is posting on my reading list, which means I’m unable to see what’s new with all the blogs I follow. Apparently, this is a bug that is occurring all over with Blogger right now, and they are working to fix it. I certainly hope the problem is resolved soon!

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Useful and beautiful

I am a real believer in William Morris’ edict: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” But oh that can be a tricky proclamation to follow, especially when faced with so many exquisite threads, fabrics and yarns out there. So many ideas, so many frivolous projects. I’m not one to make countless wall hangings or stacks of cushions.

So when I happened upon some beautiful King Cole Bamboo Cotton yarns, and found coordinating Tilda fabrics, I had to find an excuse – a useful excuse – to make something with them and justify the spontaneous purchase!

I created a granny crochet hook roll. I wanted to develop a pattern for my crochet students that would showcase the basic techniques learned in the course, including colour changing, joining motifs and the beloved granny stripes and squares.

Inside is a simple fabric lining, with pretty lace trim, hook pockets plus a little extra space for stitch markers and scissors.

This was the prototype, and I’m pleased with the size and the ease of my pattern. But I want to make a few minor alterations, some tweaks here and there that will make it just a little bit more polished and pretty. For starters, I found an even prettier shade of pink in the Bamboo Cotton range. I’ll show you the new-and-improved model soon!

I love the yarn, the colours, the fabric. It is beautiful...and above all, it is useful!

Wishing you a joyous Summer Solstice! 

Chrissie x

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Stitching, playing

Perhaps it’s because I’m teaching three separate crochet workshops during the week, but the past few days I’ve been less inclined to pick up my hook and more enthusiastic about my embroidery hoop...

You may recall here that I happened upon some incredible hand-dyed embroidery supplies – I hesitate to call the bundle “floss”, because none of the materials can be separated into thin strands. But they are stunning and magical and I just had to buy them!

So now I’m playing with my new threads. I started by drawing a simple heart shape onto some thick natural linen – I was drawn to the opposing textures, the slubby, rough linen with its earthy tone, contrasted by the ethereal hues of the threads. I love the variegated blues, purples and greens, with the gold shimmer sparkling against the weave.

I used a stem stitch with the shot-gold thread to outline the heart. I also did stem stitch for a silky thread that is almost crinkly in texture – it is a twisted thread, but not simply in a spiral, it is bumpy and windy and just fun to use. I like how it gives an almost silky rope-like texture to the embroidery, see on the curlicues on right side above.

I’m going to embellish this heart with ribbon roses, buds, leaves...I have no set design in mind, but I am enjoying the freedom of the stitching. Oh, and I’m not entirely sure what I’ll use this for when I’m finished – another hoop hanging on the wall, perhaps a bag, a cushion...suggestions?

Recently I received some incredible embroidery in the post. I took part in the &Stitches Stitchy Swap, and my swap partner, Jeanne, sent me the most amazing piece!

This is an embroidered and quilted project bag, large enough to hold a 10-inch embroidery hoop and associated supplies. It is so vibrant and detailed, and the most interesting and creative aspect is that some of the patches are actually photos of my garden, taken from my blog, which Jeanne printed onto fabric then embellished with floss!

I must admit, I went a bit teary when I read her card and admired her work (I’m a soppy ol’ bird!). This is such a treasure, made with such care and thoughtfulness, especially considering that we never met! The parcel was also filled with stickers, stationery, treats for the girls, I've been spoiled!

You can see the embroidery I sent to her here. Thank you Jeanne, from the bottom of my heart!

Guess who made a visit to the garden this weekend?

Bottom left, top right

Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful daddies out there! Now it’s time to go back to spoiling Darling Husband!

Chrissie x

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Here, there and everywhere

Life has been a whirlwind lately, with outings, excursions, rehearsals, clubs and lessons...all lots of fun, but oh! trying to keep up with it all!

On Monday a friend asked me what I was up to Friday afternoon, because she rang and I wasn’t at home. I stared at her blankly. I couldn’t actually remember. Do you ever have moments like that? It had been such a busy week, I got to the point where I would simply look at the calendar on the wall and do what it said to do.

But I have some lovely moments to share with you...

Last Thursday was so indulgent – I had planned for months to go to the Royal Academy of Art Summer Exhibition, and Thursday was my day. I asked my lovely friend Jooles to come along, sweetening the invite with a promise to go to lunch and Liberty for her birthday.

I didn’t have to twist her arm! The train ride was so fast – it is remarkable how much quicker commuting time flies when you’re chattering away about all things crafty! (And it also helped that Jooles brought along an amazing dulce de leche cake...yum.)

The Royal Academy of Art was wonderful. I love the Summer Exhibition, so many styles of art, such an incredibly varied really does have something for everyone (including a Pimms bar!). I only took a few photos with my iPhone

Of course I have my eye on a few pieces

I wonder how many crochet workshops I can run to buy one?

We had a little break for lunch at my favourite Japanese diner just around the corner

Simultaneous iPhone snapshots
then it was off to Liberty!

It was the final week of an Arts & Crafts exhibition there, which is the main reason I wanted to visit – we tracked it down to an upper floor, it was a small exhibition but had many treasures. These are three embroideries from early 1900s, so detailed and so rich in colour (but alas, two were behind glass, making photos difficult...).

Jooles took far better photos than I did, of the whole day – see them here (and read her version of events!). We both left with Liberty bags, mine small, hers BIG (it was her birthday, after all!).

Thank you, my friend! 
The fun continued into the weekend. On Saturday I went to the Lurgashall Fête. The weather had forecast torrential rain, so of course the sun came out and summer officially arrived! But the best part was shopping at a very special stall at the fête – none other than Sarah Moore, of Sarah Moore Vintage!


Okay, so I didn’t stand outside her lovely tent snapping pics, and I didn’t ask her for a photo, that’s just not for me. But I did have a lovely conversation with her about fabrics and textures and sewing and embroidery! And I bought some goodies for a real bargain

This little enamelware bowl, perfect for the cherry tomatoes that my girls eat every day;

a lovely zinc florist’s vase and some French linen;

and some more fabric – but this isn’t just any old fabric... is an old curtain that belonged to Sarah’s granny! Yep, that’s right, I’m crafting with Sarah Moore’s granny’s curtains! tee hee

It must be fate, because you may remember in this post that I had bought some gorgeous hand-dyed embroidery flosses of various types. The colours of one skein match these curtains *perfectly* - and they aren’t even my “typical” colours!

What to do with these harmonious materials? Any ideas?

After a few days of crochet workshops, I’m hoping to pause, take a breath and let life slow down a bit this weekend. Enjoy the rest of your week!

Chrissie x