About Kate

http://www.katescreativespace.com

I blog at www.katescreativespace.com

Posts by Kate :

The Wobbly Tooth

Tooth Fairy Door

It’s been a momentus week in our household; on Monday, Harry announced that he had a wobbly tooth.

My immediate reaction was to assume this was a false alarm; Harry has long been aware of the Tooth Fairy and the riches she bestows, and often checks my teeth for their general sturdiness, declaring many to be ‘close to falling out’.  This used to send me to the mirror in a panic,  but after a clean bill of health from the dentist I have learned to put this down to 5yr -old wishful thinking.  Or a budding career in dentristy, one or the other.  This time, however, Harry was right, and after a week of dogged tooth-wobbling, his loose tooth finally fell out on Friday.

I say it fell out; in fact it might have had something to do with me suggesting that Harry change into a t-shirt which later turned out to be designed for Ages 3-4, and which caught on his tooth – a rather painful and accidental extraction, but no less exciting for all that.  We carefully located the tooth, and placed it into a small jar together with some glitter stars, because everyone knows that fairies like glitter.  Proud of our own cunning, we attached a small bell to the jar in the hope that she might ring it and we’d catch a glimpse of her..

Tooth for the tooth fairy

We hung the jar over Harry’s bed, and then went off for bathtime and teeth-cleaning.

How to attract the Tooth Fairy

On returning to Harry’s bedroom, we were astonished to find a door had appeared, high on the wall above his bed….

Tooth Fairy entrance door

Apparently the Tooth Fairy Door appears on your bedroom wall only on the night that a tooth falls out, and is gone again by morning.  Who knew?

….And it seems the Tooth Fairy did indeed come that night, because this is what Harry found in the morning, under his pillow;

Note from the Tooth Fairy

Believing in magic can be very rewarding…

 

I made the Tooth Fairy’s door using an MDF letter ‘m’ turned upside down; it really resembled a tooth!  You could use an ordinary doll’s house door like these or these.  I attached it with blu-tack and stuck it high enough on the wall that it was out of reach of small hands.  Do be careful what you attach it with; wrestling it off the wall in the middle of the night in the dark requires something with pretty minimal adhesion… oh, and start preparing when the wobbling begins, so that you’re not scrabbling to sort out fairy entrances whilst still hunting for the lost tooth at the moment-critique.

To help the Tooth Fairy with her personal administration, I printed her letter using the free-to-download Blackadder font, and slipped it into a small vellum envelope, using a monogram seal stamped with a rubber stamp from here.

To get a very shiny pound coin you can wipe it with copper cleaner or drop it into a cup of hot water and vinegar for a few minutes.

If you have more than one child or this is the tenth milk tooth that has been lost in your household already this year and such effort seems absurd, I suggest just stuffing a £5/$5 note under the pillow and returning to your glass of wine.  Life is short, after all ;-)

Opened note from the Tooth Fairy

Have a great week, and enjoy the last few precious hours of the weekend!

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One hundred and twelve red apples

Red apple seasonal tablescape

It was my birthday last weekend and we had a handful of close friends for dinner; one of those cosy, informal dinners that feels just right as the seasons turn and the nights close in.  I went to the garden centre after work looking for flowers I could use on the table and instead stumbled across a stall filled with windfall red apples; a few minutes later I had purchased 4 huge bags of apples for around £4.50/$7, and had developed biceps of steel carrying them to the car.  Very satisfying.

I filled a basket with some of the apples and rested it on a stool to the side of the table, then literally rolled the apples along the centre, adding a few other bits and bobs to add height and interest..

Apple styling

Apple centrepiece decor Apple centrepiece

Simple and inexpensive, it took about 10 minutes to set up, but as a low-effort way of adding a touch of seasonal colour it worked a treat.  For dinner we ate a kind of deconstructed chicken and mushroom pie which I prepared in a large casserole before adding personalised piecrust tops to serve with each;

Personalised piecrust!

I cut large circles of ready-made puff pastry and used cookie cutters to create cameo silhouettes and tiny letter cutters for the initials of our friends (you can make them the night before of course and just chill overnight).  Brush with a little egg glaze, bake for 10 minutes and serve on top of the pie filling; a little bit of fun…

Personalise piecrust toppers!

And finally; a pan full of fudgy, raspberry-stuffed brownies, still warm and with a scattering of icing sugar and a scoop of salted caramel ice cream.  I’ve gradually tweaked and adjusted various recipes over the years and come up with one I love; the quantities are huge so do adjust depending on your needs (but then who doesn’t need 24 brownies?  No point doing things by half). Recipe below..

Fudgy raspberry brownies

Raspberry fudge brownies

Finally, thank you SO much for the lovely comments last time about my quilt post and the blog in general; they really made me smile.

Have a great weekend, when it eventually comes; we have bonfires and fireworks planned, and a couple of days of nesting after an unusually hectic period of travel and juggling.  I can’t wait…

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Stitched with love: the baby-clothes quilt

Make a quilt from baby clothes

Up in the loft I have 2 huge bags of Harry’s baby clothes, full of treasured items which hold such potent memories that I could never give them away.  About once a year I stumble across them whilst looking for something crucial (a feather boa, say, or a camping stove – I never seem to come down from the loft with the thing I actually went in search of), and I finally resolved last month to do something with them.

My interest in having a go at quilting was stimulated over a year ago by this trip to Amsterdam, and with the winter nights drawing in I decided to make a quilt for Harry that could be snuggled under for a cosy night in, draped over his bed for extra warmth, or used as a playmat….

Make a quilt from old baby clothes 2

I sorted through the piles of baby clothes (which, let me warn you, are incredibly small for making a decent quilt!), setting aside everything which dates from the crucial 2 month period during which Harry discovered the world of solid food, and specifically bananas; despite boil washing, everything still seems to have ghostly banana-y handprints all over it.  Have a look at this and you’ll understand why;

Harry and food copy

I eventually chose two pairs of Harry’s toddler pyjamas to make the body of the quilt, and cut up an old white tablecloth as a backdrop.  Some of Harry’s tiniest tops, bottoms and dungarees provided a perfect border – and made me realise that in the hormonally-charged, sleep-deprived first year of motherhood I apparently dressed him entirely in red, blue and plaid.  It could have been worse.

I taught myself the rudimentary basics of quilting from this library book, and would not dream of offering anything in the way of advice here; I used a square cut from a cereal box as a template, a ruler from the toybox to measure my seams and a felt tip pen to mark everything up, all of which should rightly draw gasps of horror from more accomplished seamstresses… but it worked, showing that anyone should feel brave enough to give this a whirl…

Make a baby clothes quilt

I realised very quickly that actually quilting the duvet would be beyond my sewing-machine skills, so once I’d inserted the wadding I stitched the buttons from Harry’s shirts at intervals all over the quilt, which holds the batting in place and looks very sweet.

quiltingThe quilt has other secrets too; when I cut up the pyjamas I kept all the pockets and incorporated them into the squares, so there are now little sections where Lego men, torches and important messages can be stored…

pocket square

I am very proud of my first quilt, and I love that Harry has immediately adopted it.  We’ve spent many an evening examining the squares and discussing where they came from (‘tell me what I did when I wore those, mummy’); there’s something magical to Harry about these being the clothes he once wore, in a time he can barely remember.

make a kids quilt using baby clothes

A perfectly imperfect quilt, then, and something of a metaphor for first-time motherhood too –  the seams are crooked and will doubtless unravel at times; the squares are uneven and occasionally speckled from the wounds of pinpricks and needle-stabs..but what runs through every stitch of this quilt is love; the very deepest and most sustaining kind.

Certainly enough to keep one small person warm for a lifetime.

Quilt

 

Two cool ways to wrap a bottle…

Two fun wine bottle styling ideas

Like many, I am a huge fan of Pinterest (you can follow me here)  and regularly Pin inspirational pics and projects to try at home.  A few weeks ago I stumbled across a link to a wonderful site by Sylvain Allard, who teaches packaging design.  He’d asked his students to design a wine bottle sleeve from a single sheet of paper; the results were beautiful.  One sleeve in particular caught my eye, so I had a go at recreating it at home, wondering if it would prove to be easy enough to become a new, chic way of bringing-a-bottle to parties this coming holiday season.

Firstly, I drew out a rough template of rectangles, each slightly deeper than the next.  Using a craft knife I cut along three sides, rolling each strip back on itself as shown below….

bottle 12

I folded and glued each strip in an arc, slightly offset, sticking it at an angle as shown below…

bottle 11

I practised on a rough sheet of paper first, but when I then wrapped it round a wine bottle it looked a little plain, so I added a corkscrew image to my template as well, as you see above and below.  To attach the sleeve, I just used colourful washi tape to hold the ends together.  Voila!

bottle 4  bottle 2

Making the sleeve took me about half an hour, which included the time to deconstruct and reinterpret the picture I’d seen on Sylvain’s site.  You can make it even more quickly by using my template (below; PDF link at the bottom) – let me know how you get on!

Wine bottle sleeve template

Suddenly wrapping bottles seemed like a great way to spend the evening, so I found a few leftover vintage envelope prints I had from making our hot air ballon and used them to make this other sleeve below..

botttle 1

I had googled ‘vintage envelopes’ and found some lovely free-to-download examples including some here (worth a rummage in this treasure-trove of free printables)

bottle 13

I simply cut a rectangle of brown paper, scrunched it up and flattened it, glued on an envelope and secured it around the bottle with string.  This one was much quicker but looked just as lovely.

So, why not wait for a rainy evening ahead of the party season and have a play!

bottle sleeve paper sculpture

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Room to Grow

Room to grow

Cuddling Harry has suddenly become like wrestling a small giraffe.  Every limb has to be  folded, origami-style, into place, and no sooner is one contained than the others spring free.  I am at a loss to explain how my tiny swaddled newborn has become this dashing mini-man with wild, untameable hair and views and opinions of his very own.  It can only have happened whilst I was asleep, although heaven knows there’s been a lot less sleep these past five years than in those that came before.

When he was four, Harry helpfully explained to me how you grow up.  It went like this;

‘First you’re a baby;

Then you’re a toddler;

Then you’re a person;

Then you’re a ninja;

Then you’re a grownup’.

(I love it that you only get to be an actual person once you’ve made it through the toddler years… and that teenagers are so indescribably cool that they are in fact  ninjas).

Either way, whether I have been paying close attention or not the progression to ninja-hood has undoubtedly begun, and all things babyish are being cast aside at a rate of knots.  Harry’s bedroom, that sweet domain of early childhood, is scheduled for a grown-up makeover.  The charming alphabet poster will be consigned to the loft I am sure, and anything soft and fluffy will come under very intense, 5yr old scrutiny.  ’I think this room needs to be more boyish‘ said Harry firmly, as he viewed it with a critical eye.  ’Maybe with more swords and things’ .

Consider this post therefore an act of historical preservation, and allow me a quick final tour…

I  shared a pic of the room once before when we papered the wall in this fun fox wallpaper;

Boys bedroom in progress

I later added a blackout blind in the same colourway, and made curtains to pull around Harry’s treehouse bed, making a useful den in which to hide torches, books, snacks, oversized dogs and friends you are trying to kidnap so they don’t ever have to go home..

boy bedroom

Harry adores his bed (an eBay find; they were once sold by British store Next, now sadly no longer available).  It did present challenges for bedtime stories though, so we invested in this lovely Story Stool on which we perch each night, in order to deliver fantastical tales through the treehouse window…

Bedtime story chair

Whilst Lola the bunny is seldom invited into the Treehouse these days, Wilberforce the polar bear retains his position at the head of the bed, as the longest-serving member of The Boys, Harry’s troop of animals.  The monogram canvas was a gorgeous gift from Harry’s godparents, from here.

gorgeous graffitti

When we redecorated Harry’s room in early 2014 we ripped out an old, broken fireplace and added a simple oak beam in its place.  We thought the chimney was sealed, but obviously not because one day, Alfred the dinosaur flew down it and got trapped….

Alfred and the chimney

I made Alfred by mounting one of these fun animal heads onto an old mirror frame, and made a sign for his neck.  Alfred, we decided, is a vegetarian dinosaur, so we added a carrot from Harry’s play kitchen so stop him from feeling hungry.  We have to be careful with feeding Alfred though, if we’re ever going to get him unstuck.  I made Alfred’s tail out of felt and faux leather (see a similar tutorial here), and stuffed it before hanging on a nail inside the chimney breast.

Alfred

Alfred will survive Harry’s room makeover I’m sure, but this beautiful alphabet wall poster from will be rehomed elsewhere in the house.. isn’t it lovely?

Alphabet print

Also at risk is this watercolour sketch (below) I did for Harry when he was a baby of his favourite book, Orange Pear Apple Bear… he adored that book; it was the first thing that ever made him laugh, so I drew a picture of the bear in homage to Emily Gravett’s beautiful illustrations, and stuck it to his cot.  I later framed it, and it’s hung in his room ever since…

Orange Apple Pear Bear

The puppet theatre may once again revert to being a bookcase and shelf for boyish treasures, though I’m sure it will be brought back into life every now and then for a few curtain-call performances…

play theatre

 

Whilst there’s a poignancy to the continual evolution of what began as the bedroom of a toddler, there’s also something very lovely about planning the next update together, with a small boy who is very much now a person by his own definition, and has magical if wholly impractical ideas for what we should add (‘a roof that lifts off! …A slide down to the garden!…A button that delivers a snack!…’).

Wish me luck with that…

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Home Harvest

Hello again, after a brief hiatus; I’ve been travelling with work to San Diego – a beautiful if fleeting visit, spent mostly in hotel meeting rooms but with the occasional, wonderful foray outdoors. One evening we caught the night ferry across the bay for dinner – those 20 minutes on the water, watching the lights of the city skyline and feeling the mist of the water spray, were a highlight of the trip.

I like travelling, but I love coming home even more, and this weekend has been spent nesting with the boys; apple-picking, crumble-making, bonfire-lighting, marshmallow-roasting and the havesting of everything edible from the hedgerows and trees.  We’re tired, scratched up, smeared with mallow and thoroughly happy – and the best is yet to come; tonight we get to eat everything we’ve made.

We began with the ancient apple trees along the garden wall….

The apple harvest

Even after discarding the ones with worm holes, dents and bruises we had seemingly hundreds, so gently wrapped and boxed them to store through the winter.

Apple storage

Apple storage for winter

They’re cooking apples rather than eaters, so I searched for good recipes before coming across this one for a divine-looking tarte tatin.  Incredibly simple, but a delicious, caramelised flaky dessert.  We cheated and used our favourite gadget, an automatic appple corer and slicer, so ours looks a little flatter than it was supposed to; I don’t think that will trouble the tasters later…

Tarte tatin

We’ve been gradually tearing down an old shed, amassing a pile of wood which we used for a bonfire today.  For fun, Harry and I tried making Ina Garten’s marshmallows, and managed to produce a tray of giant, wobbling cubes which made us laugh just to look at them.  Harry dusted them with sugar and added sticks.  Some we ate before the fire was even lit (how could we resist?), others we secured carefully onto toasting forks and roasted over the fire as it died down.  A small minority we managed to set fire to; I suspect it will take several hair washes before the woodsmoke-and-burned-sugar smell leaves us completely…

Making marshmallows

Making marshmallows to toast

And finally today we picked all the pears from our pear tree which was leaning ominously under their weight. Most were unripe so after googling advice we have consigned them to the fridge for a few days to hasten the process.  Apparently if we take them out next weekend they will soften up beautifully within a few days.  A handful were ready, so we invented a recipe of our own and made blackberry crumbles for dinner tonight, each with their very own magic, golden pear…

Gold pear crumble

My recipe is below if you fancy giving this a try – and if you’re a pear-lover and have some other favourites, please do let me know; we’ll have a lot of pears to work our way through this month!

Golden Pear Crumble

Have a wonderful rest of the weekend; it feels very autumnal here so once we’ve polished off the crumbles we’ll be lighting the fire and snuggling up in front of the TV, holding the oncoming week at bay.  I’m praying for a good night’s sleep after jetlag kept me awake last night; at 2am I was cheerfully – if quietly – rearranging cuboards and drawers in the dark, not something I’m keen to repeat…

I’ll be back in a few days; till then, take care.

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How To Look Manly In An Apron (or: Impress Your Friends With a Tea Towel DIY)

DIY Tea-Towel Cafe Apron

Successful marriage requires compromise, as we all know.  The hurly-burly of give and take is what bonds you as a couple and cements your union.  Sometimes it means making sacrifices for the other, such as when your wife whips up a homemade apron and then realises that she has no-one to model it, and sabotages your restful weekend breakfast with the request that you put down your toast and newspaper, don the aforementioned apron and adopt a stylish, manly pose right this minute so that she can take a picture before the sun goes behind a cloud.

Gotta love him.  Not least because living with creative souls can be a very messy business.

Cafe apron DIY

When we were in Provence recently I did the classic tourist thing of buying a handful of beautiful tea-towels, thinking they were almost too lovely to use, but sure I would think of something I could do with them later.  There were these vibrant, colourful trio, a bargain at 10 Euro for the three;

Provencal tea towels

And then these gorgeous heavyweight rough linen monogram tea-towels, for just 5 Euro each (I bought a bagful, I confess…)

French linen monogram tea towel

Linen aprons

Once home, I decided to turn one of the linen tea-towels into a cafe-style half apron with pockets.  It’s not a no-sew project, I cannot tell a lie, but it’s certainly a low-sew one, and required very little skill or tiresome things like measuring or tacking or the re-threading of needles until puncture wounds drive you towards that unopened bottle of wine.  The monogramming and stripes on my linen towel obviously complement the style, but you could do this with any tea-towel of a reasonable weight.  Here’s how I made it, step by step…

DIY Cafe Apron from a Tea-Towel

Locating my sewing machine, finding that the cable was missing, buying a replacement, returning to the store to buy the right colour cotton and clearing the kitchen table in readiness took about 2 days.  Making the apron took approximately 30 minutes; pleasingly short.  And it’s just the right length to wipe your hands on when in the midst of a flamboyant culinary endeavour, with pockets big enough for your phone, recipe, ladle, and anything else you might need…

DIy Cafe Apron with Pockets

And finally, if aprons and tea-towels aren’t your thing, how about these gorgeous local soaps in every scent and colour under the sun, the other souvenir we brought home from our travels in France; I spent ages choosing which ones to buy, aided by Harry in doing the sniff test (we still sneeze when we think about it).  Simple purchases, and simple pleasures; the very best kind…

Provencal soap

 

olive oil soap

beautiful Provencal soap

Have a great week!

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DIY Cafe Apron

 

Navigators, Cocktails and the Swansong of Summer

The Navigator's table

I know, I know… with a title like that, any post is bound to be a disappointment.

Never mind, how are you, how is your week?  We managed a last-minute get-away to the sun for a few days before school begins, and threw a large and informal impromptu dinner party with friends to celebrate summer before it takes a final bow.  We managed to cram 14 people around our kitchen table, adding a couple of side tables at either end to accomodate everyone.  I covered them with these amazing shipping charts (below) that I found in a junk shop on the Isle of Wight last month… aren’t they beautiful?

Vintage navigation mapsVintage navigation charts

They were printed in the 1950s and obviously used for some years; each has small, faded annotations and comments scribbled on them warning of currents, submarine testing areas and shipping channels.  I bought as many as I could carry for £1 each; cheaply enough that I felt able to spread them liberally over our tables without worrying about wine-rings or the flamboyant distribution of food that is inevitable when you’re in the middle of a great anecdote and have a loaded fork.  And a near-empty glass.

I decided on a nautical theme and gathered everything I had that might fit the bill to go down the centre of the table… like driftwood and old map books;

maps to decorate a dinner table

Jam-jars, speckled with silver paint and housing t-light candles, whilst battery-operated fairy lights added pin-points of brightness along the length of the room…

A navigator's dinner table

Summer table setting

I wanted an informal feel, so for placemats I simply printed an image of a vintage ship’s compass onto sheets of watercolour paper and used them to mark each setting;

Map dinner table

DIY Map placemats

For the cutlery, I used some sheets from the map book featured earlier and folded each one in 3 with slightly overlapping edges, before gluing 3 of the edges and cutting a half-circle at the top with a circle-punch; the perfect pocket, and a 5-minute make…

Map book pages make a great cutlery pocket

Use maps to make cutlery pockets

It was a deliciously warm night, so we gathered on the patio before dinner and drank porn-star martinis which I’d made in exuberant quantities with a Nutribullet smoothie-maker; I’m sure the manufacturers would be horrified to find that I had substituted the recommended kale and wheatgrass for vanilla vodka and passion-fruit, but it worked a treat and they tasted far too good…

But now it’s back-to-school week; the labelling of a myriad of baffling pieces of sporting equipment, haircuts (the first in many months), and a frantic scrabble to locate the lists of homework we were supposed to cover in the endless yet somehow crazy-busy days of summer. Epic fail.

And as if by magic, autumn has ridden into view, with two days of torrential rain followed by mists, an early-morning chilliness and the ripening of the apples all along our lane.  We’re treating ourselves tonight by lighting the wood-burning stove for the first time since winter; unecessary perhaps, but the woodsmoke smells so good…

Enjoy the rest of the week!

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Toy Passports! (Or, how to take the entire family on holiday…)

Pet Passports!

Last month we set off for Provence laden with just about everything you would possibly need for a short break in the French countryside, and many things you wouldn’t.  We are masters at packing random exotica and hopeless at remembering necessities; this time we were determined not to leave anything behind.

We left before dawn one chilly July morning and had got as far as the airport before disaster struck, as we realised that ALL of Harry’s stuffed toys were still fast asleep in his bed, blissfully unaware that they had been forgotten in the rush. Boris the fox, Marvin the mouse, Wilberforce the polar bear… home alone.  Oh dear.

Harry was temporarily bereft at the thought of sleeping solo, but soon rallied when I promised that next time, we’d make sure they had passports and could take it in turns to travel with us.  Promises made to small people must certainly be kept, so I spent an evening last week forging making passports for this unruly cast of shady characters….

Pet Passports Montage

To make them, I designed a lookalike passport photo page and we asked each gentleman in turn to take a seat and pose for their official photograph.  The rules were carefully adhered to; no smiling, and absolutely no hats of any kind.

That means you, Wilberforce..

Wilberforce

Animal head shots

Some, like Boris, were naturals in front of the camera;

Animal head shots 2

We added the photos onto the ‘passport’ page on my laptop and then printed them out with some blank sheets to make a booklet.  I mocked-up a cover page for each passport and we printed these onto coloured paper to make the covers.

(By the way, for the lovely gold foiled covers, I experimented with a laser printer and gold foil printing technique – I’ll do a step-by-step tutorial soon; it’s fascinating and surprisingly easy – but if you’re desperate to have a go sooner, this link  gives you a very good overview).

And for those making passports for British animals, here are my blank templates for you to download and have a play with…

Toy Passport Cover

Blank toy passport page

We obviously made quite sophisticated toy passports (though rest assured; they certainly wouldn’t fool anyone in authority), but of course you can make these very simply using just craft paper, scissors, pens and glue; Harry enjoyed making these just as much as our computer versions…

How to make passports for your toys

How to make passports for your toys 2

However much time you invest in these, it’s a great way of filling a rainy afternoon with the littles in your house.  You could use stamps and punches to decorate the pages, reflecting a world of glamorous adventures….

Toy passport factory

So now all the animals in our bedroom menagerie have passports (and in fact, I have received a number of black market enquiries from stuffed animals seeking passage from around the world; word has obviously spread that we’re the go-to people for fun-fur illegal immigration).

Now, which to take with us on holiday? Decisions, decisions….

Travelling toys

See you next week!

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Strawberry baskets, and a picnic of Lavender..

Lavender in Bike Basket

How are you, and how has your week been?  I have the day off work today and am brewing up to hosting our annual family reunion; the kitchen is an explosion of pots, pans, sticky spoons and odd streaks decorate every surface (passata? chocolate?? let’s hope so..).  The windows are steamed up which is helpful, hiding as it does the fact that the garden is being lashed with rain and gales, and our carefully hung bunting is now drooping rather dejectedly and is speckled flamboyantly with mud.

Ah well, it will give us a chance to play how-many-adults-can-you-squash-onto-a-sofa and other such games, if the heavens do not comply.

In the meantime, here’s a couple of projects I did in the garden recently when the weather was much kinder; planting up hanging strawberry baskets and a hamper full of lavender.

I repurposed a couple of our Easter egg hunt baskets and added a binliner to help with water retention, then filled with potting soil and planted a couple of young strawberry plants we’d been coaxing along on the windowsill;

How to plant a strawberry basket

Whilst strawberries are delicious, strawberry plants are undeniably quite dull, so I added some of these gorgeous cappuccino-coloured trailing bedding plants to provide a bit of colour and contrast…

Hanging baskets with strawberries and cappucino daisies

I then twisted rubber-coated wire firmly around the handle, creating a double-strength cord to hang the basket from the tree (I used this make);

How to hang a strawberry basket

Hang from your chosen tree (I used this one under which we play our noughts and crosses)

Strawberry hanging baskets

Wait about 2-3 weeks, watering frequently, and suddenly… STRAWBERRIES!!!

We have strawberries!

Pick and enjoy immediately..

Strawberry picking

home grown strawberries

I also planted a wicker picnic hamper with lavender, using a plastic box as an inner to protect the wicker and stop the moisture from evaporating so quickly…

Lavender hamper

The lavender has grown quickly and filled out, creating a lovely feature on the patio…

Lavender basket on the terrace

And a helpfully portable one!  A nice welcome for our guests in the spare bedroom…

Lavender basket and old butchers block

IMG_1455

The hamper fits beauitfully in my old delivery bike, which I recently painted (admittedly in a rather half-assed way; it needs another coat..); we prop this against the garden gates whevener we’re expecting company…

Lavender in Bike Basket

Bike with flowers

And my final outdoor project, which is very much a work-in-progress; I’m trying to grow a living skirt for my vintage mannequin, after dressing her for Christmas and spring.  Climbing roses and clematis are slowly but surely weaving their way skywards; in my head I’m picturing a sea of cascading white flowers and delicate tendrils.  If the weather has its way though, I suspect I may instead by rescuing her from a tree, or even from next door…

the summer lady with her skirt of roses

Have a wonderful, relaxing weekend.  Ours may be wet and wild, but it will be enormous fun, of that I’m sure – we have a 30ft bouncy castle arriving at dawn and no-one can resist that… :-) .

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The Cartographer’s Guide to Dress-Making

Paper Dress made from maps

I live in a small village which is blessed with not one but three – three – second-hand bookshops.  Amongst the shelves of nearly-new thrillers and bodice-rippers, travel guides and cookbooks there is a large, open-fronted cupboard marked ‘Ephemera: Misc’.  It’s here I gravitate towards and where I’ve found a myriad of wild and wonderful books, maps, charts and music scores over the years which have steadily formed a small paper drift in my studio, waiting for inspiration to strike.

One of my recent buys was this Collins Graphic Atlas; I’ve no idea of the age but it was certainly pre-decimalisation, given the princely sum of 5 shillings…

Vintage map book

It had pages and pages of beautiful old maps and charts of the constellations in each hemisphere (I think I’ll frame these two as a set; I can’t bear to cut them up..)

Map book

 

Inspired by amazing paper dresses like these, I decided to have a go at making a piece of art for my friend’s newborn daughter to hang in her nursery.  Armed with scissors, a bone folder and  - of course – a nutritional glass of wine, I set about playing with ideas and choosing the loveliest and most interesting maps.

The hardest bit was working out how to create a pleated dress shape.  It took me several false starts to think it through (use rough paper till you get the hang of it), but eventually; ta-da!! the perfect concertina box pleat;

Dress making with vintage maps

To save you the brain strain I experienced, here’s a guide below for how to make a box fold.  Essentially, you need to measure out and mark up your map or paper with alternate widths of 2cm/1cm, and then score them lightly using a bone folder to make folding easier.  The grey dotted lines below indicate where you fold the paper inwards to make an inverted fold; the red lines show where you fold away from you to build up the raised pleat areas.  Once you have made your box pleats, flatten the top end and gently spread out the bottom edges to create a fan effect like in the picture above.  Give it a whirl..

How to make a box pleat

Once the dress shape is made, the rest is fun and just needs imagination and a bit of playing around.  I made lapels for the dress using the edges of a map, folding carefully to match the borders, and using a punch to cut out a large decorative button (this can also cover a multitude of sins when you’re sticking it all together)

Assembling a paper dress

As you see above, I made little puffed cap sleeves by cutting semi-circles and lightly gathering and glueing them – but then decided later not to use them.

I assembled the dress together and then glued each part in place onto a sheet of white watercolour paper, layering it up, piece by piece.  It needed one final touch, for a tiny but determined person with the world at her feet and a life full of adventure ahead…

Matilda and her dress

And here it is!

Matilda's Map Dress

Good luck if you decide to give this a whirl; although I used my book of maps, any gift wrap, patterned or even plain paper would look good.  And do let me know how you get on…

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