diy

Messy play: DIY Button Christmas Cards

Button Christmas Card DIY

Welcome back, and Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends; I hope that you had a wonderful day yesterday and are not feeling too many ill-effects from the feasting and general revelry.

Today’s post comes courtesy of Harry, who will take you through the messy-but-highly-enjoyable art of button craft.  Yesterday here was wet, grey and miserable, so we spent our evening covered in glue and sparkles, humming off-key snippets of Christmas carols whilst making cards for Harry to give to his grandparents and teachers; I can thoroughly recommend it.  You’ll need;

  • Green craft paper
  • Lots of buttons of different shapes and sizes; (we used these but any assortment will do)
  • White glue
  • Blank cards or cardstock to mount your trees onto at the end
  • A bathtub that your small assistant can be dropped into the moment that the glue-based activity is done

Firstly, cut out a set of Christmas tree-shaped triangles, and pour a small bowl of white glue.  Stir vigorously.  Ignore buttons and card and focus on the glue.  Force yourself to return to the job in hand.

holiday crafting

After applying glue liberally to the tree, place as many buttons as you can on the shape, in any order and pattern.  Remember, you can never have too many buttons, and you can certainly never have too much glue.  Don a Santa hat to further increase the festive mood.

crafting for the holidays

Add more glue.

christmas crafts

Place the shapes to dry on a baking rack (this will probably take overnight).  To kill a bit of time whilst you wait, you can punch out a few snowflakes to place around the button tree.  We used a Martha craft punch and had a competition to see who was the strongest at squeezing the punch.  I am proud to say that I won.  And also embarrassed; there’s little glory in being stronger than a three-year old, after all.

DIy snowflake christmas cards

The glue will dry completely clear, leaving you with beautiful trees which give no hint of the mess and chaos involved in their production.  Mount them onto cards; we also added a little wooden star to each, plus a few of our punched-out snowflakes;

button christmas tree cards

I then pimped the plain envelopes by using scraps of gift-wrap to make envelope liners (a quick how-to on this next time; you can practically do it one-handed with a glass of wine / eggnog / green detox juice in the other).

DIY button cards and lined envelopes

I chose gatefold cards which I found on sale here during our recent holiday to the US; I wanted to add a photo of Harry making the cards so that everyone who received one got to share in the fun of the work-in-progress; you could just as easily slip a photo inside a regular card.  Ours stand up so that on one side you have the tree, and the other the photo and space for a hand-written message down the side.

DIY holiday cards for kids

 

homemade Christmas cards

 

So our first phase of Christmas crafting is complete, and our glue-dipped paintbrushes in for a very, very long soak.  This weekend brings a long-awaited pirate birthday party, family visits and much celebration, so we’ll be busy… I hope that you have a lovely one, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

handbag logo

 

The Dream House Restoration: Heading upstairs…

French armchair in bathroom

Those of you who have been following for a while will know that we are slowly restoring and updating an ancient, crumbling yet beautiful Georgian house in England; working our way as quickly as inspiration and budget will allow (very slowly, in the case of the latter).  It’s a battle against the elements; even as one coat of paint dries in a room, a strange and ominous water stain will seep through the ceiling of another.   A sense of intimacy is created quickly with new guests who soon realise that every toilet flush clangs and reverberates around the house for a good 10 minutes; there are no secrets here.  The house will be something of a life’s work, and is frustrating and wonderful – often in equal measure.  We moved here two years ago this Christmas, and have so far tackled much of the downstairs; the kitchen, playroom and hallway have all appeared here on the blog.

Our next project was the overhaul of our bedroom and its en suite bathroom.  We moved out of it more than two months ago for a job that we thought would take two weeks… we (and our builders) should definitely have known better by now!  Having been camping out in the spare room since September, we finally reclaimed our own bed yesterday, with great relief and general giddiness.  As we put the finishing touches to our bedroom, here’s a peek at the bathroom, which we’ve completely overhauled.  I’ve interspersed the before and after pictures so that you get a sense of the layout and evolution.

Let’s start view into the bathroom from our bedroom before;

old bathroom 1

And after…

view from bedroom into bathroom

The bathroom had a very strange false step buried beneath dark green carpet (seen below), which was presumably crafted as a way of improving drainage at some point in the 70s or 80s.  It had to go; beyond being a complete hazard in the middle of the night, it also reduced the floor space significantly.  Oh, and the drainage thing obviously didn’t work; our en suite had no actual toilet; for that you needed to head down the corridor.

old bathroom step

We took out the step, removed half of the wall-to-wall cupboards (which the step had been cut into, making them look a bit odd), and stripped out the old shower, replacing it with a hidden-cistern WC instead.  An old armchair has been moved from the spare bedroom and has quickly settled into the corner here instead.  Underfloor heating warms the new travertine stone which we laid instead of the carpet.

new bathroom left view

new bathroom left corner

We think that the room is likely to have originally been a nursery bedroom, and contains a chimney breast (boxed in behind the sinks) and alcoves.  The alcove to the right of the sinks used to house a built-in wardrobe, but one which we seldom used, being in a bathroom and far away from our other storage.  It also had a weird half-wall which further bisected the space, and which we took down.

old bathroom cupboard

We replaced it with a huge walk-in shower…

bathroom shower

For the main sink area, we stripped out the old, stained green marble top and inset basins, and chipped off the tiles to reveal the chimney breast and fireplace; incredibly, it hadn’t been boarded up so also contained several fossilised birds (eek!) and  - more interestingly – a time capsule from the previous owners, and a newspaper that was more than 50 years old.  I’ll share that in a future post; it makes for wonderful reading.  After properly stabilising the chimney breast and wall, we had it re-plastered and tiled before choosing simple washbowl sinks with inset taps.  The eagle-eyed will recognise that they are now mounted on our former hall table; we thought it would look beautiful in the space, so after sealing the wooden surface we asked our joiner to plumb the washbowls through it.

vanity unit

washbowl

For aesthetically-pleasing storage of the things we use all the time, we found these poured-concrete planters at our local garden centre (a bargain at £15), which easily hold bits and bobs like hairbrushes, toothpaste and so forth.  Hand towels are stored in the vintage dough bowl which again you may recognise from our apple-picking and other adventures – so much of this bathroom is recycled from other parts of the house.

concrete planter dough bowl bathroom storage

An old French milking stool (a flea market find last year) acts as a stand for shower essentials;

milking stool

‘That’s all very well’, I hear you cry; ‘but where do you store all your un-beautiful bathroom products, hmm?’  I can imagine you saying it, because that was exactly my husband’s question when I described to him my vision for a bathroom with nothing in it (or near as dammit).  Well.  Not that I am going to confess to owning anything unsavoury like haemorrhoid cream, waxing supplies, dandruff shampoo etc, but IF I did, they would surely all be housed in the magnificently huge cupboards we retained and which hide all manner of sins.  Believe me, it’s like the episode of Friends where Monica’s secret closet full of junk is discovered.

bathroom wardrobes

We’ve only been able to use the bathroom for 24hrs so far, so we’re still pondering where to place things and wall decor.  We’ve moved a huge picture up from downstairs which we love and are living with to see how it all works together.  We’re hoping that we’ll be able to turn the old cupboard doors from the units we removed into window shutters, by stripping them and adding hinges to produce period, fold-back shutters…we shall see.

There are gremlins and small irritations, of course; the limitations of ancient plumbing and old houses means we have had to site the heated towel rail on the opposite side of the room to the sink, for example.  We knew that we would have to plan this room somewhat on the fly, as we wouldn’t know what was underneath and behind the old bathroom until everything had been stripped away.  All told though, we are very, very happy – not least because we’ll have no more midnight sprints along a cold corridor to the bathroom, stubbing toes and shivering as we go.

Here’s a quick overview of some of the colours we chose and fittings we used, for any bathroom fetishists or if you’re about to start a similar project yourself…

Now, time for a shower.  Only my third today; the thrill of the new, eh?

Kate

Bathroom Sourcebook

Quick Tricks: Printing Onto Tape

Magic tape printing master

How are you… are you having a good week?  We are beyond excited as our New England trip looms; suitcases are packed and stand in the hall (somewhat prematurely, meaning we have to rummage in them daily for crucial things buried deep inside).  Harry is determined that his entire Lego collection should accompany us, along with his stuffed-animal menagerie, so every night under cover of darkness we stealthily unpack his backpack and try to lighten the load a little.  We cannot wait!  A quick craft therefore this week, squeezed in between frantic completion of work projects and endless small preparations and errands; I present to you the art of printing onto tape.

This may well be one of those crafts that divides readers into those who cry ‘Lawks! That’s genius! However did I live without this knowledge?’ and those who are frankly mystified as to how this could ever come in useful.  Have faith; read on.  I used Scotch magic tape, because I had it to hand, but coloured washi tape also works well and easy to print on and peel.  I decorated a box of inexpensive wooden pencils from here, and now have a pot of prettiness on my desk for those times when only graphite will do…

pencil on book

To print onto washi or satin tape (don’t try using high-glass tape like Sellotape; the ink won’t adhere and you will end up in a tangled, inky mess and blame me..), firstly print out your words onto a regular sheet of paper.  Check that the font size is right for the width of your tape, and then cover each line with the tape, as below.

printing on tape 1

Now run the sheet back through the printer, positioning it the same way as before so that it prints over the original text and – Ta-Da! – over the tape itself.  Wait for the ink to dry (don’t skip this step; adopt a yoga pose and think zen thoughts until you are sure it has dried).  Then gently peel the tape away, and position it onto your pencil (or envelope, or giftwrap, or whatever else you want to use it for).

tape printing 2

printing on tape 3
If you’re covering pencils like these, gently roll the tape around the sides and then press firmly into place.  I’ve gone for the understated, Muji-esque look, but blinging bright washi tape would be equally delicious.

printing on tape 4

Pencils on notebook

Printed Pencils

I used exactly the same technique to print a sheet of tape strips to use on the back of envelopes to help them stand out from the dreary bills and other junk mail that arrives each day;

Washi tape Printing

So there, as promised, a lightening quick technique to use whenever the fancy takes you….

DIY printed pencils

I’ll see you soon!

Kate

A Chill in the Air…

Striped Holiday Candles

Arctic winds have blown through our corner of the world this week, hustling the trees into a frantic leaf fall and turning our minds to thoughts of cold, crisp mornings and snow.  The newfound chill is novel enough to feel fresh and exciting, and to make us a little giddy at the thought of Christmas approaching (I’m an unashamed Christmas person; although the grown-up in me joins in the general tut-tutting at the sight of Christmas cards in the shops in September, the child in me gets very excited…).

Preparations for the festive season can never begin too early in this house, so I waited for a break in the gusting wind and then rushed outside to practice making candy-cane striped candles, a plan I’d had vaguely formulating since the neon candle experiment earlier in the summer.  This was an experimental DIY but proved to be a very easy one.  You’ll need;

  • A handful of inexpensive red candles
  • Nail varnish remover
  • A roll of masking tape or washi tape
  • A ruler, if you are precisely minded (I did mine by sight and guesswork)
  • A can of matt white spray paint (whilst the propellant is highly flammable, the paint itself is usually fine to use; check the small-print on yours before buying).

Firstly rub the candles lightly with a cotton wool bud soaked in nail varnish remover, and then rinse and pat dry.  This will help the spray paint to adhere better.  Now, starting at the bottom of the candle, run the tape around at intervals of about 1″ (or as wide as your tape).  Repeat until the top, and then smooth around the tape to ensure it is stuck to the candle all the way around each ring (this minimises the chance of smudging or paint runs).  At this point they should look a bit like this;

pegged candles

I pegged mine up for spraying, but equally you could simply don an old rubber glove and hold them by the tips before spraying.  The bands of tape mean that you can lean them against a wall to dry, as long as you position them carefully.  I gave mine two light layers, about 3hrs apart.  If you have more patience, 3 coats would look even better… just don’t be tempted to try and give it a double-coating in one; it will run and look horrible.  Trust me.  when they are dry, carefully peel off the tape and examine;

candles drying

At this point, you can use a craft knife to gently scrape away any paint to neaten the edges, and dab any gaps or chips using a cotton wool bud with a little paint sprayed on top.  And then… well, that’s it.  Ta-da!  Have a cup of tea and congratulate yourself.

Candles in black tissue

These burn very normally without strange smells or firework effects (always reassuring to know), and look very pretty.  Not as finessed as those in high-end shops which are made from layers of coloured wax, but a very cunning and serviceable thrifty alternative (and where Christmas is concerned, any opportunity to be thrifty has to be good…).  For ultimate holiday table chic, use a handful of these candle spikes and stick them in glossy red apples.  Gorgeous.

(ps if we were partying at home this Halloween, I think I’d be making some of these using black candles for stripy witch-stocking effects).

Have a great weekend!

Kate

 

 

Detecting The Flamboyance Gene

Harry discovered the art of disguise at an early age.  It was clear even at two that a man can never have too many pirate eye-patches, cloaks, swords, racing driver goggles or superhero capes; you never know when they might be called upon in the ups and downs of everyday adventure.

I look at my husband and the genetic sequencing becomes clear.  Here is a man who has variously dressed-up as Madonna – complete with conical bra – a hippy, a zombie and Father Christmas, and has his own trunk filled with accessories and war-torn party outfits.  (nb I will set aside the question of the Madonna outfit for now, and dwell on it in private later).

It became clear last week that storing all of Harry’s dressing-up clothes in a chest wasn’t working; everything gets flung on the floor in the frantic search for THE crucial piece of kit (usually pirate-related). I looked online for a fun clothing rail but it seems that only girls are allowed to have these, if the number of heart-bedecked, pink shimmery rails are anything to go by.  So we made our own…

DIY Witches Broom Dress Up Rail

I recycled an old clothing rail from the loft and replaced the top rail with a long-handled, bushy natural broom from the local garden centre (a bargain at £5).  Although the broom was in their display of general tools, it struck me as deliciously Witchy, and Harry agreed.  We are obsessed with the lovely Room on the Broom book at the moment, so this felt like a brush with fate (unforgiveable pun, sorry..).

Bracing the side rails is important, so if you make one of these be sure to lash your broom securely at each end, to avoid them leaning inwards.  I wound string around tightly for, ooh, about 5 minutes at each until it felt like they weren’t going to move AT ALL.  And that’s it; the quickest DIY ever.  I also recycled a bathroom waste-bin for sword storage, and slotted Harry’s superhero cuffs onto the rails for easy access – hallelujah; a walk-up wardrobe of delights is born.

Dress Up Rail Montage

I added another outfit to the rail last week when Harry came home from school with a request that he come dressed as a cowboy to the back-to-school BBQ.  In my general ineptitude, I discovered this note about 24hrs beforehand, so we constructed an outfit mostly out of things we already had, spending a grand total of £5.  Breakdown below…

homemade cowboy outfit

The shirt and jeans are Harry’s own; I roughly hand-stitched  lengths of animal print fabric onto the legs, loosely enough to flap a little but stay in place.

cowboy chaps

The waistcoat first featured in this post, soon after I bought it in a charity shop – a surprisingly rich hunting ground for mini-waistcoats and jackets for dressing-up outfits, presumably because they are purchased for one-off weddings or events and then rapidly grown-out of.

Our bandana was fashioned from a tablecloth stolen from Harry’s play tea-set, knotted loosely around the neck.  The cowboy hat was our only investment, bought as part of a set (together with the toy guns in holsters) from the 99p shop – honestly, so much tat for under a pound; it’s more addictive than Class A drugs…

Cowboy Hat

I glued a polkadot ribbon around it (in suitably manly colours), and designed & printed a paper sheriff’s badge to stick over the top.  I then stitched the plastic gun holsters to the belt loops of the jeans, and used a length of washing line for a lassoo.  Job done..Dancing cowboy

That’s Harry doing the Cowboy Dance by the way; a spontaneous jig which he feels compelled to launch into when fully-clad in his outfit, usually in front of a mirror and with much self-admiration.  Just like his father again…

Not an outfit with impressive durability by any means, but a very easy flung-together costume for when life demands something a little more flamboyant than the everyday.

*****

 

DIY Art Installation: The Great Wall of China

I’ve always had a bit of a passion for matt white porcelain; there’s just something about its beauty and fragility, and the understated simplicity of it.  Having neither the lifestyle not budget to warrant actually buying it, I’ve till now satisfied my passion with window shopping and pinning artists and makers like Caroline Swift (below) and Isabelle Abramson (bottom)

carline swift vessels caroline swift bowls

Isabelle Abramson

A couple of weeks ago I was drinking coffee in the kitchen and wondering idly which picture to hang on a long, thin wall when I decided to do something very different – I’d try creating a sculpture wall of porcelain-like vessels and kitchen implements which could hang quietly against a backdrop of white until noticed…

Kitchen with wall installation

 

great wall of china montage

I began by assembling any old and chipped plates we had, plus odds and ends like a couple of baby feeding spoons from when Harry was weaning, and a pair of chopsticks.  I did a quick trawl of local charity shops and managed to pick up a cheap teapot and a couple of china mugs and saucers.  These were a myriad of different colours, but of course that doesn’t matter at all as everything will be sprayed white.  Oh, and remember the teacup bird feeders I made?  I swiped one of the cups and saucers from there to repurpose on my wall.  I gave everything several thin coats of matt white spray paint and then rolled out a length of white paper to play with the arrangement of the items.  I used a leftover roll of lining wallpaper for this – very cheap and super useful.  I moved the items around, repositioning and taking photos to work out what arrangement would look best on the eventual wall…

wall art laid out on paper

It was also at this stage that I gave some serious thought to how to fix the china and objects to the wall, especially those – like the whisk – that I wanted to hang at a particular angle.  The answer was to use a few different methods.  For lighter items like the baking implements below, I just tapped a handful of nails into the wall to secure them in place, spraying the nails white afterwards.  You can see them if you look for them, but otherwise they pass largely unnoticed…

kates kitchen wall

kitchen utensils wall art

For heavier plates and arrangements, I glued the pieces together before spraying them, then used plate discs to adhere to the back before hanging flush on the wall using nails.  The plate discs hold an amazing weight, but you do need to follow the directions and let them ‘cure’ overnight first before testing their strength.junk shop teapot sprayed matt white sprayed white chopsticks on saucer

babyspoon and bowl white plates

The most challenging items were light, individual pieces like the little ramekins and the fish dipping dish.  I wanted them to appear completely flush with the wall and seem almost to be floating.  In the end, I opted for  super-strong velcro tabs which are designed for picture hanging.  One side adheres to the wall, and one to the piece you want to hang, then they simply clip together (see below for more details).  This was great to use for any pieces which I was hanging in arm’s length of visiting toddlers – they can be peeled off the wall if some strength is used, but can’t be knocked to the floor and broken.  Not easily, anyhow…

kitchen wall with a difference

 

Fancy having a go? Here’s what I used; matt white spray paint to get the china a uniform, flat colour.  Command picture hanging strips to adhere lightweight pieces directly to the wall; this is great as you can reposition them and move the pieces around to different positions.  Adhesive plate discs, for invisible hanging or larger items, which are then hung onto nails or hooks; I used these tap-in angled ones below for a near-flush finish; you could use ordinary nails and gently tap them at an angle to avoid pieces jutting out.

wall art materials

 

Our Great Wall of China joins other kitchen features like the mounted boat transom (below) and folded books on the fireplace and completes it at last…

boat in room close up

books on fireplace

It will probably provoke similarly mixed reactions from friends, with some who think it’s the coolest thing ever and others who think we’re completely nuts… and that’s fine too.  Debate can ensue over a Saturday night glass of wine or three…

I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend, wherever you are!

Kate

 

How to Stay Cool in a Heatwave

homemade fruit juice ice lollies

We’ve had an unprecedented, glorious 3 weeks of unbroken sunshine here, with soaring temperatures and cloudless skies.  It seems to have sent Britain into a state of national shock, with people shedding clothes at an alarming rate and lying, spread-eagled, on every available patch of grass and scrub to soak up the precious rays.  Relatedly, hospitals report new levels of burns admissions and ‘injuries caused by misuse of poolside inflatables’ (there’s a Bill Bryson-esque post in itself there, I can’t help feeling).

Here, we’ve been rather more careful, and instead have been experimenting with ice-cream and lolly making.  In fact, we’ve frozen pretty much everything we can find in the cupboards these last few days, working out what tastes good and what was better left un-meddled with.  The kitchen has become a sea of brightly-coloured dribbles and splashes, and Harry has been diligently working his way through a variety of lollies, giving each one the lick-test for success or failure.  Here are our biggest successes;

Homemade Fruit Ice Lollies

Homemade Ice lollies

We made these by simply pouring our favourite natural fruit juices into ice-lolly moulds and freezing; simple as that.  No e-numbers, no scary preservatives, and a super-quick ice-lolly that you can even justify eating for breakfast (well, it replaces a glass of juice, right?).  You can, as we did, add a drop of food colouring gel to make them more beautiful – most natural juices are pale amber in colour, so feel free to jazz them up with a dash of the brights.

fruit juice lollies

You can find plastic ice-lolly / popsicle moulds like these in many stores, but if like me you prefer to use wooden sticks instead of the plastic handles and can’t find a mould which fits wooden lolly sticks, you can customise the plastic ones very easily (and it’s a great way of making large numbers in batches for a party).  Two foolproof ways; either cover the top of the filled mould with tin foil and pierce the wooden stick through, or (for the very precise-minded); place a piece of tape across the opening, and another at right angles so that you have a taped cross, and make a small incision at the centre before threading the stick through and down into the juice. If you don’t have special lolly moulds, you can make fill & freeze paper cups or even muffin cases using the foil & stick method – silicon works particularly well.

Our other favourite recipe was frozen yoghurt*…

organic frozen yoghurt pops

I made these in exactly the same way, by simply pouring into moulds, adding sticks and freezing.  As you’d expect, frozen yoghurt pops are much creamier and smoother than juice-based lollies, but seem wonderful immune from drips  - ours were mess-free, albeit they were consumed very quickly..

raspberry frozen yoghurt pops

*Yoghurt or yogurt?  Anything goes apparently, as far as the spelling is concerned; the only thing which is universally agreed is that it tastes divine..

yoghurt lolly

If you’re making batches of these, take the moulds out of the freezer when frozen solid (2-3hrs, we found), and after a couple of minutes ease the lollies out of the moulds.  Wrap each one in freezer paper to avoid them sticking together and place back in the freezer; then simply refill your moulds and start over again.

Are you an ice-cream or ice-pop connoisseur?  Any recipes we should be trying just as soon as we work our way through our current stockpile?

Have a great week.

Kate

DIY Concertina-Fold Photobook

DIY Concertina Photobook Project

When I was in Paris recently, I saw a range of beautiful silk-covered concertina photo albums in the window of a stationery boutique.  A tiny, eclectic paradise stuffed full of the most beautiful things, it was a shrine to all things paper.  Their beauty diminished a little when I saw the price; about 25 Euros, or £20/$35.  Alors!

I resolved to have a go at making a few of my own at home to capture photos  of special days or big events  - and to make and give as gifts, packaged up with a little pack of photo-corners so that recipients can fill them with whatever photos they like.  I made one to go in Harry’s Time Capsule, with a selection of photos reflecting a typical day this summer, so he can look back and remember what it was like to be 3yrs old…

Concertina Photobook DIY folding Photobook
DIY Photobook Then for something a little more grown-up, I found some pretty Paris street map paper and made a concertina book of the best photos from our Paris trip; a copy each for me and my best friend Vicky who came with me…

Paris Concertina Photobook
Parisian Concertina Photobook
DIY Vacation Photobook

All you need for this is a large sheet of black craft paper (or any colour, if you prefer something brighter for the inside), two pieces of cardboard, some spray glue and a sheet of decorative paper.  Oh, and a stack of heavy books to place it under at various stages.  If you’re feeling inspired, click below for the step-by-step directions (and do let me know how you get on!)

DIY Concertina Photobook Instructions (click the link to download and print, or simply view them below)

DIY Concertina Photobook Guide Notes

A Painted Romance

DIY watercolour heart

I’ve come over all romantic this week. Perhaps because the week began in Paris, city of lovers, where I had my long-awaited weekend away (more on that later), but probably because tomorrow is our wedding anniversary, and I’m inevitably feeling reflective about the last five amazing, exhilarating years.  To celebrate, we’ll be slinking off to local country-house hotel in the middle of the afternoon  ….to eat lots of cake.

A decadent Afternoon Tea beckons, and whilst it may sound somewhat less glamorous than a passionate mini-break à deux it requires no babysitters or complicated logistics, and very little schedule-juggling & budget. A couple of hours to relax, reconnect and just be, aided by a glass of champagne and enough calories to slow down Usain Bolt. I can’t wait.

DIY watercolour moonMy anniversary card to Mr B will be homemade – of course- and I’ve been dabbling with my watercolour paintbox, creating the images above and below and mostly just playing with colours and shapes, adding text to those I like…

home is where the heart is

In each case I’ve painted a simple shape in a single colour with a loaded, wet paintbrush, so that the paint pools into interesting patterns as it dries.  For those inspired to give it a go, there’s more detail below.

You are my sunshine

I used the same technique to make fun menus when we had friends over for dinner last weekend, painting watery stripes of colour in complementary shades, which blended at the edges as they settled and dried…

painted menus

I decorated the table with garden flowers in a similar palette, and sprayed this log white as a centrepiece.  Tiny tea-light candles in little porcelain cups completed the picture…

Paint palette tablescape

If you love the watercolour effect but would rather cheat than labour away at your own (and I applaud you for this; hurrah for short-cuts..), you can find PDF downloads of my images and the painted menu backdrop at the bottom.  If you’re feeling artistic, whip out your paintbox and read on…

make me smile

More

Treasure-Hunting…

Ardingly IACF Fair

Images above via IACF

One bright day two weeks ago, we piled into the car and headed for Ardingly, which periodically hosts one of Europe’s largest vintage & antiques fairs.  It’s an annual pilgrimage for me; a hunting ground for treasures and improbable, beautiful finds.  We have clearly defined roles; I spot something I adore and then shriek, loudly, before bouncing around distractingly in the background whilst my husband attempts to negotiate the price, and to create an impression of casual interest. Often, I am dispatched for coffee as a way of removing me from sight entirely.

Prices anyway are low; this is predominantly a dealers’ event, and bargains are many. Whether you are looking for a set of tiny vintage patisserie tins, a 20ft high reclaimed, columned stone porch for your country manor or a turn-of-the-century copper bathtub, you will undoubtedly find it here.  Sellers come from all over Europe and it’s as much a reunion as a business event; currencies, embraces and gossip are all freely exchanged and there’s a festive air.

I gave myself a strict budget of £100 and went rummaging.  Here’s what I bought;  firstly, an armful of vintage French linens; monogrammed tea-towls and a long, hand-woven length of heavy linen which will work beautifully as a rustic table runner.  They’re perched on a £5 old milking stool, which will make a lovely bedside book table once I check that the woodworm, too, is definitely vintage…

vintage french linens

My unexpected find was a collection of huge 19th Century tin stencils of deer and stags – including the ‘inner’ cut-outs, which I love; I’m thinking the inner pieces will look beautiful resting on shelves and mantels at Christmastime, whereas I might actually put the stencils themselves to use to decorate tablecloths and fabric placemats (watch this space…).

19thC Stencils

I’ve been searching for a while for some little copper pans to use when serving individual puddings or sauces, and at last found these 9cm Mauviel pans which polished up beautifully; I’m picturing hot chocolate fondants with liquid centres, dusted with icing sugar… mmm.

brocante copper pans

These champagne buckets below will add to one I have already and look good in a row at parties filled with ice & different bottles (wines, beers, soft..); I’m imagining them on my cart once I get around to restoring it…at 2 for £10 it seemed worth it even if they’re only used a handful of times a year.

old champagne buckets

My next purchase was another surprise find; four vintage postal sacks (Belgian or Dutch, I think), which Harry immediately decided would be brilliant for a sack race (and how right he is..).  Once the summer is over I’ll give them a good clean and may turn them into over-sized lounging pillows or even hang them up in a row as laundry bags – though it could be weeks before we manage to fill them up.  What would you do with these?  They’re incredibly strong and well-made, and the years have made them very soft too… I’m sure there are a myriad of uses for them.

vintage postal sack

sack races

And finally, a pile of naturally-shed antlers to decoratively fill our kitchen fireplace out of season, sold by a charismatic, ancient Scotsman who collects them from across the moors.   If you come across antlers and like the look of them as decor accents, check that the ends are rounded and unmarked, which will indicate that they’ve been naturally shed during the spring  - hence their prevalence now.

deer antlers in fireplace

Large antlers and giant tin stencils may indeed be great finds, but they are somewhat hard to manoeuvre safely through crowds, so after inadvertently poking several bystanders we decided to head for home with our boot-load of treasure…. at least until the next year.

Are you a dedicated junk-hunter?  I’ve always had a passion for old, reclaimed objects and materials, and now our very old, unusual home gives us the perfect blank canvas for them.  Our last house was a minimal, modern space  - equally lovely but completely different, and much less suited to battered and worn furnishings.  How lovely to have an excuse now…

Have a great weekend, wherever you are and whatever you are doing!

vintage tin stag form

How to make the news headlines without leaving the couch

I’ve just discovered a wonderful time-waster which I had to share; a write-your-own-news headline generator, where you can type in whatever news story you like and then download for free. You get a jpeg of your newspaper which you can email to a friend, or print out and turn into a card, as I did the story below which I wrote for my brother Tom as he picked up the keys to his first ever apartment;

newspaper-2

Thoroughly distracted by now with the fun opportunities the headline-generator offers, I’ve been busy documenting everything over the last couple of days, tacking bulletins to the fridge and, like a true newshound, letting nothing go unreported.  Including, of course, the Fathers’ Day scooter race between Harry (3) and Daddy (considerably more than 3);

newspaper-3

Do give it a go – but not when you have anything sensible you’re required to be concentrating on instead – just click on this link and fritter away hours practicing your cub reporter skills!

Before I sign off (and I’ll be back later in the week with a super-quick decor DIY), thank you to all those who reached out to check that I survived my wilderness experience; more details below …

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