Cushions and Curtains

I find it very difficult to make time to sew things for the house (or myself), these days, it feels like I’m ‘wasting’ my time when I have more pressing things to do, but I also get a bit down seeing daily jobs that need attention so I’ve really pushed myself over the past year to work through things from the never-ending list and I feel a lot better for it.IMG_20171109_092535Last week I took a day out to sew curtains and cushions for the living room. The curtains were desperately needed as it’s getting cold and the big square bay window can allow a lot of heat loss if not covered by a decent curtain.IMG_20171109_131320The curtains on this window are hung by an Ikea Dignitet wire. I don’t really do traditional curtains, in fact, I generally don’t do curtains at all as I prefer minimalist, modern coverings so most of the windows in this house have roman blinds (always hung outside the frame to allow for maximum light), but on this window blinds aren’t practical. The wire used to hang at the back meaning the small side windows allowed a lot of heat to escape plus it’s a bit creepy in the winter, I always imagine someone is out there looking in at me as I sit on the sofa in my pj’s, as you do. I moved the wire to the front and changed the curtain to one large one hung in a way that it folds neatly and mostly fits in the small side recess when closed, so you can barely see the curtain at all and it allows as much light in as possible. It’s hung oddly with the folds on the far side of the wire so that the curtain hooks show, which is probably not to everyone’s taste but I quite like this.IMG_20171109_131239I shrank the original curtains after washing them recently. Muppet. I’ve reused the fabric as it was expensive linen but I needed the new curtains to be washable and stiffer in order to get the neat folds I was after when closed, so I backed the entire thing in extra wide ‘Opera’ fabric from Tinsmith which has a canvas feel.Screen Shot 2017-11-19 at 09.43.33It’s not something I’d normally chose but I really like the idea of it as a surprise backing fabric and it matched the pale green linen from the front perfectly, plus should I ever want to go floral I can reverse the curtains and have the birds and flowers on show instead of the plain linen. The curtain also has a thermal lining sewn into it and some regular curtain tape (purely for stiffness) sandwiched between the layers to aid the firm folds at the top. All the fabrics have been pre-washed and the curtain hooks are removable so it can be taken down and washed in the machine at home. IMG_20171109_093607I had some linen left over and it was a perfect opportunity to get some tapestry cushions made up that have been sitting on the spare bed for months. Everything has come from stock except the two pheasant tapestries, which I bought on eBay for pennies. I had planned to add piping cord but abandoned that idea knowing that these cushions will be heavily used and cotton piping tends to wear away quite quickly on the corners.IMG_20171109_131428In my mind they do look a bit ‘unfinished’ without some piping…or a twisted cord would have been nice too.IMG_20171109_131355But they are done and it’s another thing to tick off the list and that makes me VERY happy.

This weekend I am fitting skirting and painting, cooking Sunday lunch and baking the Christmas pudding! There is no rest for the wicked.

A Mixed Bag…

It’s all gone a bit Pete Tong.  Just in case you were hoping to see a lovely patchwork bag or something as the title suggest, sorry, but there are some highlights so do keep reading (and I’ll apologise now for the dodgy photos but the light is very bad here today).

The Good

It all started last night, I received a late night order, from a Gentleman no less! (not many of those order from my website) and he chose very well….unless it’s a girl using her other half’s PayPal address which has happened in the past…either way, I said good bye to my last SALE cat, which was ordered along with an Orange Winter Berry Cushion, they look good together don’t you think?  I added a little Egg Cosy as an extra.

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The Bad

Now, I am going to have to divert here for a little introduction to

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Smelly, my cat.  Her real name is Smilla after ‘Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow‘, one of my favourite books but she has always been called Smelly.  I will give you a full cat history another time, the thing is, Smelly has only had part house access since we moved here 3 years ago as she daily brings dead animals in.  I am OK, with this, she is a cat after all, but when Charlie was younger and mostly crawling it wasn’t very nice so at night she has been restricted to the utility room in a cosy bed by the boiler and she isn’t allowed in bedrooms.  As we have no door in our new (old) extension she has been lounging about on the beds at night and last night she PEED on my bed!  She has a history of doing this and it’s partly how she became known as Smelly.  I was not best pleased but luckily the cat wee hadn’t gone all the way through to the mattress, only the duvet and sheets.

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The Really Bad

This morning, after getting some of the bedding into the wash, I packed up my order and was about to pop off to the post office when F’s school rang.  My should-know-better 4 1/2 yr old had shoved a bead up his nose, buried Pirate treasure apparently, so I had to pick him up and take him to A&E, along with Charlie on the doctor’s orders.  After a 2 hr wait (with me trying to get F to blow his nose really hard and yes, I did try tweezers) he had the lovely pink bead removed.  He wont be doing that again in a hurry.

Getting Better Again

I came home to find I had another order, this time for a Betsy Wool Bunny

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if you are wondering what the little bird attached to a card is all about, I have a big packaging post on it’s way that will explain all.

The Best Bit

Whilst out, the postman came by with a number of parcels.  This could have been bad, except we have great postmen who often sign for my packages leave them in a safe place.  So I came home with hungry, tired children and chips to cheer them up, to

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find my 2010 Calenders as ordered from Snapfish.  This has become a staple Christmas present for my immediate family, all my Father’s photos are on slides, which I am slowly scanning so each year I put together a Calender with a mix of old and new photos, I always wait for the half price sale and then get them ordered.

The Very Best Bit

Having saved the best bit until last (I waited over an hour to open this parcel as I knew what was inside and wanted to be relaxed with a coffee to hand, so as to really enjoy the experience) here is an order I placed with Nicky, of NickyNackyNoo.

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Nicky makes lovely things, plenty of which are for boys, an area I fail dismally to cover.  I have bought some of her great traffic jam bunting in the past and thought it would be nice for the boys to have hot water bottles so I ordered these covers.  Nicky added some fab tweed, for which I have a perfect project in mind and a bonus bag of flower fridge magnets, made using photos taken in her garden – how great is that!

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So it’ all looking up, best go and get the next load of laundry in and maybe fix our bedroom door so I can close it in future.

Is it a giant cushion? Is it a duvet storage bag?…

The clue is in the title.

We have too much stuff and a 2/3 finished house.  After over a year living without builders we are finally getting quotes to get the old extension on the back of our house changed into a hallway.  This will transform how we live as it will involve a new entrance, a nice straight staircase so we can get all our furniture upstairs (a lot of which is over filling our living room), underfloor heating and a wooden floor in our living space which is at the moment a concrete floor covered by some very cheap lino.  I have mixed feelings, I have enjoyed a year builder free and they will have to knock a large hole in the side of the house so it will be very invasive and dusty, but I am very excited about putting all the boxes away and being able to add the finishing touches.  It makes me look at the existing space with fresh eyes and I suddenly feel the need to get things a bit better organised.

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As part of our ‘too much stuff’ we have a vast collection of duvets and a small but beautiful collection of vintage Eiderdowns that came from my Gran that I refuse to part with.  They take up a large amount of space in the overstuffed linen cupboard, and so, I present to you the giant-floor-cushion-stuffed-with-a-folded-duvet, two in fact appliqued with each of the boys initials.  They were quite quick to make (less than a day each whilst also on Mum duty) and F has been dragging his around for the past couple of days as happy as a pig in muck.  They are very squishy but fluff instantly back into shape when picked up and simply ‘dropped’ on the floor and the linen works well, it’s pre-washed for shrinkage so should be OK in the machine and as it’s quite a heavy soft linen it looks smart even after being dragged up and down the stairs by a 4yr old.

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Even hubby was impressed and it means he can’t put pressure on me to reduce my eiderdown collection – hurray!  As a final photo, I wasn’t sure the scale of the floor cushions really shows so here is one with an egg cosy on it – see, they are pretty big.

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And yet MORE lovely things…

A new Orla Kiely bag arrived in the post today.  For those who have been reading my blog for a while, you may remember that not long ago I got a lovely new Orla K bag for my Birthday and may wonder why I need another (apart from a girl never having too many bags of course).  Do I have shares in Orla K?  Am I getting commission?  No, this

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happened to my last new bag, a slight accident involving a hob (which I thought was an induction hob) a smallish kitchen and a 2 yr old whilst we were on holiday in Germany a while ago.  I nearly cried but I was happy we hadn’t burnt the flat down.  So, hubby, who spotted the burning rubber smell broke the news to me with ‘you will be upset but don’t worry you can have a new one ‘ and I have been waiting in the hope they would re-stock the original bag I chose.  They haven’t so I have bought:

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instead and as it was in the SALE I snook in a new purse as well.  I know I bang on about Orla K and her things are quite pricey but I do highly recommend her Big Zip wallets, my old one was the first thing I ever bought, many years ago and has lasted me well, in fact most of the ladies in my family use them now so they must be good.  Also, I think I have never mentioned it before but Tinsmith sell Orla Kiely fabric, mainly oilcloth but great for covering tables and if you fancy making your own bag.

The stack of fabric in the photo is for a project I started today which I hope to complete by the end of the week, so far it looks like this:

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Right, off to cook tuna steak for tea.

Linen, Silk and Sweet Peas…

I have had a week of sewing and have got right back into swing.  It feels good, I was missing that great feeling when you make something new, choosing the fabrics, cutting the patterns and then seeing the finished piece.

So, of the many new things in the pipeline, here are Sweet Pea Linen Cushions, finally finished (well the first few anyhow).  I will be putting the purple and dark pink into The Linen Cat online shop and Folksy, the pale pink was a special request order for my Aunt.  

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The new cushions are a good example of my design process.  Some things are spontaneous and evolve from new fabrics and a bit of a ‘play’ but others are more traditional in their conception.  I had already made linen cushions based on Winter Berries and Magnolias (the Winter Berries cushion is available on Folksy in orange and is also being made in tweed.  Both will soon appear on The Linen Cat Online).  I knew I wanted to expand the range so I had been thinking about new designs.  My inspiration comes from the things around me, in this case my own garden where I grow sweet pea Matucana over the arches on my vegetable patch, it has lovely bi-colour flowers and for most of June and July I permanently have a bunch in the kitchen.  I had also recently ordered some lovely silk for making Christmas products that just happened to be in similar colours to the sweet peas.

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First I took photos and did some very quick sketches to get an idea of the shape.  The sketches are to tone down the detail and create bold simple shapes, I would happily get over excited and make a very complicated appliqued version of sweet peas, but this would be more like a piece of textile artwork and not something I could reproduce for re-sale.  It’s just not my style for the shop pieces, I like simple bold shapes that suggest their original source but have a slightly abstract feel.  I then work up a pattern on brown paper (my pattern paper of choice.  I was taught to use brown paper as a student and I have used it ever since).  Quite often I have an image in my head of how I see the finished piece so I work towards this, if I am unsure I will make up one sample or even a toile in calico with the details drawn on in pencil, but in this case I was happy with my pattern so went straight into making them up.

I am really like the new cushions, I love the mix of linen with small splashes of bright silk and it’s a lovely way to remember the sweet peas which are sadly coming to an end in the garden.

I’m melting…

I feel like the witch in Wizard of Oz, only it’s the heat not water making me melt.  Me and half the country I believe, except those in the Yorkshire Dales, where I am informed it is raining (today at least).  I’m jealous as I can’t motivate myself to sew in this weather (if the truth be known I can’t motivate myself to do a lot really) and the poor garden is so dry I have to put extra effort into keeping the vegetable patch watered but I am leaving the rest to wilt.  To add to this we have just been away for a week and have come back to lots of ripe fruit in the garden so I have been busy making jam and jelly – yes, in this heat!!!

Anyhow, enough typical Brit moaning about the weather.  The studio/spare room is a general 28 degrees so I am just keeping the door shut and have abandoned working there for now.  That’s the price you pay for an entire wall of glass – fantastic light but during the rare heat waves, not the nicest place to be.  That means sewing is confined to the kitchen (again) and a nice juggling act of moving things around to make space throughout the day.

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This is where I work in the kitchen (the photo is from earlier this year hence the empty garden in the background and nice Amaryllis), one great benefit is I have learned to sew well at the machine standing up.  It’s great for the legs and I avoid back ache which I get if sitting at the machine for long periods.  

I have lots of ideas buzzing in my head but I am failing to get them made up into samples, instead I have been buying fabric!  Nothing like a bit of shopping therapy to get my enthusiasm going.  My fabric of choice is a cashmere and wool mix in pale camel, the kind of fabric you can’t pass without giving it a quick stroke (or that could just be me?!).  I would take a photo but I think it’s a bit boring.  I am thinking a new bunny/cat/alien/mouse/teddy…something for babies all soft and cuddly, but if it’s for a baby it has to washable so may have to think on it…more importantly, I am trying to get away from mainly being known for children’s toys, it wasn’t ever my intention and although my first love are the linen cats/bunnies I also enjoy making other things hence the new cushions (and many more things in the production line, if the heat goes down that is).

Halt everything.  I felt bad writing the above and the next day got my act into gear, got the sketch book and sewing kit out and got back on to work.  I had started work on some more linen cushions before going on holiday, based on sweet peas as they look so lovely in the garden and so I have decided to get the sketches worked up into samples.  I am making them for both my Mother and Aunt (who like the designs and have pre-ordered)…better make sure they meet top standards.  At this stage they look like this:

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Better get back to work or they will never be finished. I’ll post a photo once complete and now I am back into work mode there are a lot of other designs being made up so there should be a lots of nice posts to come.

New fabric…

Now, after a few glasses of wine at the weekend I decided to buy some new fabric to make the berry cushions from my last post (I know, any excuse and a bit naughty as the whole point was to use small left overs of fabric I already have – oops!). Now you know how it is after a few glasses of wine, it’s very, very easy to buy on-line and can, on occasion, go wrong. Not in this case, the below bundle arrived in the post this morning and I am very pleased to say the least. I also treated myself to some new cat/bunny dress fabric (the bright Michael Miller fabric on top) which is very yummy. All of this was bought for a very fair price from Fabric Inspirations one of my new favourite fabric sites.

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I also finished the tweed cushions I have been making for my sister and felt the need to photograph them (actually half of them as I made two of each).

And, finally, I have got my act together and started listing on Folksy as I need to increase my sales, so I am quite pleased with my day so far.  I am twitching to sew with the new fabric but the sun is shining and outside calls so we are off for a walk.

It’s Raining…and I love it!

I know most people hate rainy weather but I love being tucked up indoors watching it rain and what a great excuse to stay inside and sew instead of work in the garden?  The best thing at this time of year is how green everything is.  We (the boys and I) went for a walk yesterday in our local woods, which have sprung into life with bluebells, anemones and milkmaids (the flower obviously, not a bunch of ladies carrying pails of milk) and there was a lovely fresh green just after rain smell.  I like rain so much I even like walking in it, my husband would say this is because I am from Yorkshire, where as he points out when we visit, it is always raining (which is not true, but it does rain quite a lot).

Anyhow, considering Felix is off pre-school for Easter I am surprised I have had a chance to sew but I have been working on new products for the shop for a homeware collection.  The ideas have been in my head (and sketch book) for a while but I have finally made a start on samples, beginning with some cushions.

I recently bought some lovely new linen and wanted to put this to use so I have decided on appliqued cushions, one based on Winter Berries and the other on Magnolia Flowers.  There is a lot of room for improvement, I think I will keep the Magnolia cushion in creams and whites for the flowers, which need to be bigger and the piping cord should be in a colour (I was going to use the printed cottons as a contrast but didn’t want to waste it cutting it on the bias so I will use cord covered bias binding instead, on the samples I used the linen).  I love the slightly retro feel that linen and the colour orange have so I love the Winter Berries.  I will also make them in reds and tweeds I think.  Anyhow, I am pleased with the first run and they will make nice additions to the living room and eventually to the shop.

I have also been making cushions for my sister from some Harris Tweed she brought back from the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.  I am a bit jealous as I rather like them but the kids would destroy tweed cushions in a matter of days.  I used invisible zips on the back but as you can see from the photo, the ‘invisible’ zips open out a bit once a cushion pad is put in.

 

Winter Berries Cushion

Winter Berries Cushion

Magnolia cushion

Magnolia cushion

Tweed cushion

Tweed cushion