Merry Christmas

Well, we’re as ready as we’ll ever be, and I’m about to log off, relax and enjoy an afternoon glass of wine with (hopefully) some crap Christmas telly.dsc_0206I did finish some of the new aprons, but there wasn’t a chance to photograph them (red is very difficult in good light, but in winter, almost impossible). I’m happy to have the ‘reject’ one to keep and wear on Sunday (I always keep the one I am least happy with), the rest will be for next year now.dsc_0002I bought an extremely cheap box of tat from Ebay…dsc_0004to use with some tree rejects (the things that weren’t strung etc) to make a wreath. It’s not to everyone’s taste, but I love it. It only took about 20 mins to make and then a painful hour to fix to the door!dsc_0007It’s on just in time for the weather to turn nasty, as the remains of Storm Barbara head our way. The door has a small overhead porch so I’m hoping it survives alright, but as pretty much everything on there is plastic, it should be OK.freddieSo that’s it. I’m quite excited about not leaving the house for a few days and for the first time in forever, we genuinely don’t have anything planned for almost a week (we do have guests, here and there, but I have a stocked freezer and cupboards, ready). I’m thankful we’re all healthy and happy and together for Christmas so I hope for the same for everyone I know.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Wonderful 20017.

West Elm Wonderfulness

I’m writing this very early, whilst sitting in bed and drinking coffee, because the very rare occurrence of the boys being away for the weekend means that I can – hurrah! (Sods law I still woke at the crack of dawn, though)dsc_0196I’ve spent a lot of time recently trying to work out the best way for me to balance making a living, with looking after the boys. My oldest finally has his official diagnosis and Charlie will (hopefully) be getting his in the coming year. Having children ‘on the spectrum’ means I am quite restricted in the hours I can work, especially with being a single parent, and having gone through a quite difficult transition into Secondary with Felix it just demonstrates to me how dependant the boys will be during certain periods of their lives. So, it really does have to be working from home (for the moment, anyway) as that offers the flexibility I need, and it has to be sewing, as I’ve already invested so much time into establishing a ‘business’, plus it’s the only thing I really know how to do. The difficulty is it’s getting increasingly hard to compete with commercially made items, especially now that ‘vintage’ (sorry, there are lots of quotation marks today…..always makes me thing of Ross in Friends and I cringe slightly that I use them so often!) is so mainstream, and handmade (resisted the urge to stick quotation marks there) is also so fashionable. I’m not complaining, I love how much lovely stuff you can buy these days, I just need to take some time out properly in January and plan how best to present my work to either differentiate it from commercially made things, or to compete on price. I see beautiful pieces of work on a daily basis where I think about the price versus how much I would have to charge for something similar¬†in order to make it scale. Tricky, but doable. I have faith in me ūüôā

So, in a slightly tenuous link¬†to above, I’m bringing you some eye candy that you will thank me for.screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-06-59-33Every year, I buy the boys some form of decoration critter that goes in their stocking, usually it comes from Anthropologie (See the top photo for this year’s bits and pieces) but as I was reading Facebook this morning, the cutest thing popped up in my targeted adverts from West Elm¬†UK. screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-06-59-18Clearly I’ve shopped there before, for their link to appear in my social media, but I haven’t had a look for ages and I got sucked into a good browse this morning.screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-08-08-24I love the¬†collaborations with artists¬†pieces and this year, I’m really excited to see they’re working with Erika Barratt again (I write again, but to be honest I didn’t know they’d worked with her before until I did some research). How cute are these little ornaments? They are in the sale at the moment on the UK site (sold out in the US, I think).screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-07-02-15They also have Mimi Kirchner owls!!!¬†screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-07-06-13Sooooo cute.screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-07-05-22I was a bit gutted to miss out on a Doug the Pug from the ASPCA Animal ornaments (F would have LOVED one of those!)screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-07-00-31but I did get a couple of Brimley Cats, which the boys will be very exited about (in case you don’t have internet crazy kids, this collection is inspired by famous internet pets).screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-08-23-29On the US site you can even get tea towels!screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-07-01-39If the above don’t work for you, what about some Fair Trade handmade ornaments?screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-07-03-01or (and this is probably more my kind of thing, at the moment) some sequin clip-on birds?screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-08-29-57They have quite a few pretty Christmas bits, much at half price right now, so it is worth popping over for a look.

It’s interesting as having put this post together, I realise that at full price many of the little ornaments are actually more expensive than mine, relatively, so perhaps I do need to be more brave with my pricing? One to think on, anyway.dsc_0193We’ve gone for retro tack again this year, our favourite thing being the foil flowers Mum took off some crackers in the 1980’s. You don’t have to try hard to work out who I get my hoarding tendencies from, I mean, who keeps tacky cracker decorations for 30 years!!dsc_0203My plan for today is to wrap gifts, write cards, and it was to photograph a new Christmas apron for the shop, but the light is so bad I don’t think that’s going to be possible…dsc_0187I might even find time to watch Elf and eat a mince pie ūüôā

 

Linen Mice Specials: The Red Shoes

First, thanks lovely ladies, who were kind enough to comment on my last post (you know who you are!), it’s really nice of you to still be reading, let alone commenting after my serious blog neglect and I really do appreciate it.

OK…where to start. The title says it all really, I guess.3965748679_4e68ed8727

Every year I find myself saying I’ll never make linen mice specials again. They are time-consuming and expensive to make, verses the price I feel I can sell them for; but then, every year, I get an idea into my head (I already have one for next year!) and I really struggle to let it go.1200

Like many little girls, I went through a phase of wanting to be a ballet dancer (somewhere between wanting to be a fairy and a nurse, probably) and I did dance for quite a few years as a child, before getting bored in secondary school and giving it up, something I later regretted. That and my¬†penchant for watching old movies, again something I’ve done since I was a kid (we didn’t have many channels, you know, and only very limited kids TV….and we walked to school barefoot and were lucky to get jam on our bread, ha ha) meant I got obsessed with the idea of ‘The Red Shoes’ mice. I wont bang on about the movie, only say it’s fabulous and a classic and if you haven’t ever seen it, it’s definitely worth watching.

(On a side note, I just LOVE the colour of Moira Shearer’s hair….I’ve just comeback from the hairdressers and have gone my usual, similar, bright, fake red…wish I had her figure too!)dsc_0139I started them back in January, which is often the case for winter specials. I do quite a bit of designing and planning for the next festive season, just after one has passed; I think I just want to commit to some of the new ideas I’ve had that I don’t find time to make with all the craziness that happens in the run up to Christmas . dsc_0143There were mistakes, as always, with the odd swear word used, dsc_0140but I’ve managed to refine the making technique of mice to avoid the past pain of turning the whole thing out, skirts and all, through a teeny, tiny gap in the side. Bonus.img_20160415_135723On another side note, one Secret Cinema event I’d have loved to have attended, was ‘The Red Shoes’. A blogger at the time (no longer blogging, sadly) had a stall there and it was one of my first introductions to how Secret Cinema works. Oh, just looked and they have a very¬†short movie/link¬†to the experience if you want to get a feeling for how it works.dsc_0013I worked on them over the summer,¬†Instagrammed them (and subsequently sold a few before I got to blog and list them, sorry);resshoesmouseeditedbut the last few have just gone live in the shop.dsc_0004dsc_0024I really am supposed to be winding down the things that don’t make a great profit, but at the same time, I really enjoy making them and they are always fun to photograph, usually because of the skirts and shoes…..we’ll see, maybe there will be more next year ¬†after all ūüôā

The Plan and How Christmas Went

997001_546611032164849_2806534199451118964_nThis is how I’m planning to approach the New Year! ¬†Ha ha, although I do admit that The Linen Cat is due for a very big shake up. Decisions have to be made about what I intend to make in the future and certain lines are going to be resigned to the sale section. I need my sewing to be more profitable, although the main reason my shop has been so stagnant is all the blind and curtain sewing I have been doing, and that has probably brought in a more consistent ‘salary’ so it can’t be sniffed at. Clearly I still need to get my blog mojo back, both writing and reading, or perhaps move onto Facebook? I think that Twitter has defeated me and my Instagram account has about one photo on it. I also think I should open an Etsy shop and start shipping worldwide, but I’ve said that before and not quite got on with it.

DSC_0153(Miss Bumbles little deer and rabbits came out again)

For now, I’ll quickly show my Christmas photos before it’s indecent to do so.DSC_0150I got off to a good start, with pretty much all my gifts bought and even wrapped in early December, which was good as then the kids got sick, and I mean properly sick as in days and days off school and lots of vomiting all over beds. ¬†I then also got sick, but as always didn’t have time to be ill, so just got on with it, as you do. ¬†Not quite as bad as the pneumonia year, but heading that way.DSC_0147 (1)Then Tuppence broke her leg, right when Buster was due in for his SECOND hip operation, so I had two cats hopping about the living room, not allowed outdoors. ¬†Thank goodness for pet insurance or I’d have had to sell one of the children by now.DSC_0138For our tree, I was inspired by Maison Bentley Style and I pulled out all the 70’s and 80’s decorations.¬†DSC_0144A few of these came¬†from home, when Mum and I cleaned out the attic years ago and she put a box of ‘Christmas tat’ aside for the bin and I rescued it, because I’m a hoarder and I can’t help it!DSC_0148It mostly contained these foil baubles, from the early 90’s, I think, and some amazingly hideous but fab foil flowers things she took off some crackers one year. ¬†DSC_0147A lot of the other things came from the mixed Ebay batches I bought years ago when I was buying true vintage (vintage to me still means the first half of the¬†2oth century) baubles. ¬†I quite often bid on big lots that were very mixed with things from the 30’s to the 90’s as they tended to go very cheaply. It’s funny how things come around again, the foil things rescued from home can now be bought for a handsome price on Ebay, which did make me laugh, as a couple of years ago you couldn’t have given them away.

DSC_0140I took some time this year to go through and pack up decorations in proper storage boxes. I’ve kept one large box of modern things, (my vintage stuff is kept separately) and it was interesting to see how my taste has changed, this layer was from when I first owned my own home, I was all set to send it to the charity shop but the boys objected.

DSC_0144 (1)This is the style I’ve had for the last few years, lots of glass mushrooms and fircones etc, that I mix in with my own shop Little Birds and Christmas Mice.¬† It made me wonder, as we had a new style tree this year if perhaps my work designs might change too? ¬†I can definitely feel a shift coming, but I can’t imagine ever designing totally differently, I think my work will always have a common thread and be very ‘me’.

DSC_0146I did also have a mini tree in the hallway window (as they are very deep) complete with tiny coloured lights so I could put some of my more delicate and older decorations up – sorry, I forgot to photograph it!

boys and lunchChristmas itself was fab. We had all recovered from our various sicknesses in good time and were lucky to be invited out to France again, with my Sister and other half.beth apron

I’m sorry, I didn’t really take many photos worth sharing here (they are all quite grainy, although I did take lots of the boys opening their gifts, as with secondary school looming, I think this will be the last year they believe plus I don’t actually like having my own photo taken) but my Sister snapped one of me in my ‘posh’ outfit, complete with deer apron.

charlie christmas jumperI love it that the boys also like to dress up for Christmas, Charlie spent quite a bit of time planning his outfits¬†and was insistent that we brought along three different jumpers….for the whole three days we were going to be away!IMG_3112 copy (1)

charlie walkWe did some nice¬†walking (no skiing this year, which was good as there was no snow anyway!).airportAnd ended our stay with the usual 2 hour delay at Geneva airport on or way back. ¬†Oh, we flew from Southend Airport, which I didn’t even know existed and is now my top favourite. ¬†There is easy parking and no waiting for customs etc….it’s a winner for me.

That’s it for now, really. ¬†Most of the dodgy photos of us are for the relatives that read this blog, so sorry about the quality. ¬†I need to go clean the house now as it’s had animals and children running around it for two weeks and looks like a pigsty, but hopefully I’ll find time to catch up on my blog reading later, it’ll be nice to read what everyone else has been up to ūüôā

I hate Openreach….

Let’s just get to the point in the title. ¬†We have an underground fault just near my house, directly after the main box, it’s basically a junction that some muppet tarmaced over some years ago and when it rains, the water gets in and loads of people lose their phone line and internet, I am the first house in line to it’s easy to pinpoint exactly where the problem is. ¬†I reported the fault in December 2013 and fought a battle with various people, including management at the phone company and Openreach¬†to get it fixed, but it involves traffic lights and a possible road closure and each time they apply to the council, the sun shines, the ground dries up and the computer says fault ‘fixed’ (I am told) and the proposed work plans stop. ¬†Then it rains again…..

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There’s a lot more to this story (I am the bane¬†of my phone and internet company, they pass me around so they can each take it in turns to deal with me, I’m afraid the ‘project manager’ bit of me just doesn’t get why Openreach pour money into sending out engineers daily, but wont actually fix the fault, and insist that a temporary, intermittent service is acceptable, even after a year. ¬†There’s also a whole bit about a temporary line to try and keep me happy that the wild rabbits keep chewing through, but that’s a whole other story). ¬†‘Chocolate’ and ‘teapot’ springs to mind. ¬†Suffice to say, it’s been raining a lot and sadly we have been without internet and phone lines on and off for a while, but today – hurrah! – the internet, at least, is on, so I’m rushing out a quick blog post to say hello and try to do a catch-up.

me

Christmas was wonderful, one of the best in fact. ¬†We were lucky to be invited out to France to stay in my sister and BIL’s chalet. ¬†The boys and I had our first skiing lessons…..I’m a natural ūüėČ (ha ha, well I wasn’t awful, anyway) and we really loved it, so we will be hitting Chatham dry slopes to get up to standard, before we move permanently out to live in France (just kidding V). ¬†My brother and his wife also came along, our first Christmas together since Mum died, it was really special to be with my siblings, I just wish we all lived closer together and could see each other more often. ¬†I got my vintage glad rags on for the day itself and meant to take a photo but never did, this headshot selfie is the best I have.

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I’m sorry the images in this post are quite ‘festive’ looking, I know that come the new year, everyone’s moved on from red and gold, but I wanted to show some of the things given and received. ¬†Sneaked in at the top there (so you didn’t get too bored of my moaning about effing Openreach without a photo to soften the rant) is an¬†Isak ‘Tingleby’ serving set, bought as a gift. ¬†I love these pieces, I have a platter myself, bought some years ago, and I use my own little dishes daily.

DSC_0151Above, the genius fun gifts from BIL, involving a 1970’s quiz and relevant prizes. ¬†I won a bottle of ‘Charlie Gold‘, which is hilarious and smells just as I remember (it’s quite scary, my advice would be to only spray it in large open spaces, we all nearly choked on the mix of that and the ‘High Karate’ which my brother won) and some Bazooka gum. ¬†The sweet lip balms (bought via Amazon) are nothing to do with Christmas gifts, I bought them as pinata prizes quite recently but they are great fun, really do smell like the relevant sweets and I thought would be ideal cracker gifts for next year, if you’re making your own.banglesAbove, is a gift received, some beautiful celluloid bangles that I had on my ‘wish list’, from Passionate About Vintage.

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I also got this Esther Williams swim suit (clearly NOT me in the photo!). ¬†I already have it in red but this is the very best swim suit I’ve ever found for my *ahem* curvier figure, that also has a retro vibe about it and as I swim with the boys every week, it was right up there on my list.

DSC_0156Again, in given was this little bundle from the amazing Etsy shop Jurooma. ¬†I’ve blogged about the beautiful felt work from here before, and specifically about the minimalist, but delightful packaging.DSC_0169 Inside is lots of felted goodness.DSC_0171 Including a poppy for my Aunt. ¬†I have a similar one and always get lovely comments when I wear it on my winter coat.DSC_0176I’d originally planned to use the berries as part of the gift packaging, but then I thought it might detract from the fact that each piece is handmade and individual so I gave them wrapped in their original bags and ribbons.

DSC_0146 Finally, a couple of gifts from me to me, just because.  This beaded pouch, which now holds my make-up came from Anthropologie.  I got it on offer when I was buying other gifts to give, yet again it reminds me how hard it is to compete with mass marketed loveliness that is available out there these days.

il_570xN.694098073_sgr7And not exactly new, I’ve owned it quite a long while now but I know I’ve never blogged about it, a vintage, hand-knitted 1960’s jumper from Zest vintage.¬†¬†I have shown a similar sweater, that also came from Zest, and which travelled to France with me this year, but I’m wearing this little number today as it’s a bit nippy. ¬†I always get stung on the custom tax when I order from Zest (I don’t mind paying the tax, it’s the handling fee that gets me) but even with that added on, I really do think for such a beautiful hand knitted jumper, which I plan to own and wear for years, it’s worth it.

I hope to try and do some blog reading whilst the internet is playing ball, I haven’t opened the shop back up yet as I’m too nervous that I wont easily be able to process orders when it goes back off and with the forecast rain and snow (oh, yes please to the snow!) I imagine it will be a bit erratic for a while. ¬†Wish me luck ūüôā

PS, I should say, the phone engineers are all lovely, I’ve never met one that hasn’t tried to be helpful, it’s just the organisation that needs sorting out. ¬†Seriously, they need a decent project manager on board…..wonder where you’d find one of those ūüėČ

Panic Saturday..?

Not around here it’s not. ¬†Here it’s more like ‘Smug Saturday’, as all my jobs are finished and I’ve just sat down with a nice glass of wine, ready¬†to watch ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, as I feel like a bit of snowy, period drama.DSC_0138 DSC_0172 The tree has been up and twinkling for over¬†a week now, DSC_0153DSC_0154I’m really pleased with the new mice and they fit in well with my existing decorations – bonus!

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As always the house is peppered with things the boys have brought home from school…
DSC_0183Charlie has made a table decoration….clearly he doesn’t take after me! (JOKING!!)

DSC_0175I received a really wonderful gift in the post (thanks J!), some of my Gran’s cross stitch cards. ¬†I’m sure I’ve mentioned these before, she used to stitch them constantly throughout the year in order to have enough to send to everyone. ¬†It’s lovely to know that people have kept them all these years.

DSC_0176 I finished, and wrapped, my last gifts earlier today. ¬†I’ve shown you the above felted goodness by Miss Bumbles/Ruth Rivers¬†some years ago, Ruth makes the most amazing little animals that always make me think of the illustrations by Racey Helps or Molly Brett, I noticed a while back that she had some felting kits in her shop and was unable to resist.DSC_0178 I’d hoped to take lots of making photos for you, but the light wasn’t always great, plus I got rather carried away with the actual process and forgot to grab the camera.DSC_0180 The only thing not included in the kit is a felting block, I was too impatient to order one and used some polystyrene¬†that I had hanging around instead – worked a treat!DSC_0163I really enjoyed my first foray into needle felting. ¬†One of my early jobs in life was as a visual merchandiser for a company I hated, there was a total split between management and the floor staff, lots of people with big egos trying to lord it over the minions below them, something¬†that I can’t stand, and when I got annoyed, I used to sneak into the back area where a friend of mine worked in the stockroom and stab his empty piles of collapsed cardboard boxes with a screwdriver (in a jokey manner, clearly, this does make me sound a bit psycho), the process of needle felting felt similarly therapeutic, I could happily get rid of all my frustrations stabbing away repeatedly at felt.

DSC_0187 F keep coming to watch and asked if he could have the finished deer for Christmas, as I don’t like to disappoint and I can’t give to one without the other, I bought a second kit to make another little critter for C. ¬†I gave them extra scarves and a little pile of gifts to hold.DSC_0189Sorry about the crap photos, I was in a hurry to be done. ¬†They are now wrapped and packed away ready for the big day.

So that’s me ready. ¬†The house is clean(ish) I just polished my nails and tweezed my eyebrows. I’ve planned a nice outfit for the big day itself (I’m morphing into my Mother, who would always put on something nice) and I’m about to get back to Poirot and a large slab of Christmas cake with a slice of Wensleydale cheese. ¬†I hope you’re all set and if not that it goes smoothly next week.

Merry Christmas and see you in 2015!!

A Bit of This…

This is going to be a quick catch-up post, just in case you think I’ve totally disappeared.

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Big thanks to everyone who entered the birdie give away, the winner was picked randomly but my youngest son, closing his eyes and putting a highlighter pen down on the list I’d written – not very high-tech but it worked – oh, and if you can’t see your name above, I’ve zoomed in for the photo so that’s why, I promise, everyone was on there, I double checked. ¬†So the birds flew off to Caroline Joynson, who writes a lovely blog so please do pop over and visit (http://carolinejoynson.blogspot.co.uk/), which reminds me, I found loads of lovely new blogs to read from the nice comments left, always one of the best things about doing a give away, but I’ve been rubbish at saying ‘hello’ and catching up generally with my blog reading, I blame the kids illness, my vertigo (again!) and a morning at the doctors trying to get the oldest seen for an infection. ¬†Life is rather like that around here at the moment.

On a happier note, I have a few things to share.  DSC_0138

These lovely bibs are made my Jenny of A Crafty Hen, they are super soft and so very well made, I always go to Jenny for baby gifts.

DSC_0139I also wanted to show you this fabulous book containing vintage knitting and crochet patterns by Susan Crawford and Jane Waller, I’ve had it on pre-order forever as there were a few delays with its first run, being self-published, but it was soooo worth it.DSC_0141 It contains 60 original patterns that have been re-written and updated, the photographs and snippets of accompanying history are just lovely.DSC_0143This isn’t a book review, I cannot knit so I don’t know how easy the patterns are to follow, but for eye candy alone it’s a wonderful thing and I am planning to bully some friends into knitting something from it for me (for a fee, of course!).

DSC_0151 I also wanted to do a quick shout out for these cute vintage style cake decorations and frill from Cox and Cox, they really hit the mark for me as we had similar on the cake Mum always iced, they will be coming out every year in this house now.

DSC_0137In terms of Christmas, we are getting there (it must be soon, as it’s started snowing on both my blogs…which rather annoyingly tries to crash my laptop when I’m using Chrome), the kitchen table has turned into a card writing factory for the boys, who insist, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, on sending a card to very child they know.DSC_0148 I have put the tree up, all my gifts are ordered and today I started wrapping. ¬†Luckily I had lots of bits left over from last year, for this, so the fabulous Meri Meri tags are back again. ¬†I’ve taken photos of the nice things I’m giving but as so many family and friends read this blog, I’ll have to wait a few weeks to show you.

You’d think I’d enjoy wrapping gifts, I certainly used to, but with two boys it can rather take the fun out of it, especially as I live away from most of my family so in the past I’ve not only had to wrap all my gifts, but also things that other people have ordered to be delivered directly here. ¬†I have to say, the boys stuff is pretty hastily done, I will just blame Santa ūüėČcrapwrappedI did seriously try to buy some things from Firebox, just so I could get then ‘CrapWrapped’, which is a genius idea, but the bits I wanted were out of stock – boo! ¬†They have some great things, though, if you’re looking for quirky but cool gifts.

Right that’s it, just a quick fly by visit before I dash off on school run ūüôā