Nice and tidy….not!

Before I get into this blog post, huge thanks everyone who has left a comment on the Blog Birthday Giveaway, it’s really lovely (gush, gush) to hear from you all, still plenty of time to enter and win a cute Linen Mouse if you haven’t left a comment already.

Thanks, also, for your get well wishes for the boys, there are both back on tip top form and it’s great to have everyone healthy for a change (cross finger & toes do a hop, turn around etc).  The relay of sickness in this house has meant both plenty of time to sew (as I’ve been stuck in the kichen/living room attending to the every whim of the boys) and yet no time at all, if that makes sense.  I have found myself standing around, rapping my fingernails but cannot leave the area to come upstairs and use the machine or my studio as quite a lot of cuddling and general Mumminess has been required.  So I have spent this time prepping projects and hand sewing, I could have cleaned the kitchen, of course, but I would much rather sew!

I took a quick photo this morning before starting a general ‘tidy up’ to show you how messy things were getting

it’s like a Jenga tower of work, I tried to remove some paper from the bottom of the ‘pile’ and everything started to topple, still it’s all back upstairs in the studio now and I have made a little order of the mayhem.

I’ve mainly been sewing beady little eyes onto the remainder of the spring birds, they just need to be mounted on cards and photographed ready for the shop (I am waiting for a new long armed hole punch to arrive).  These have proved so much fun to make I have plenty more planned

I really enjoy picking the ribbon colours for the tails, I think the number of small jobs involved making up the birds is part of the attraction, I can spread the work over a number of days and it’s easy to pick up if I only have half an hour or so.

I do now have a large bag full of the off cuttings of felt that I can’t manage to throw away.  I feel sure they will come in handy for something, the yellow have already been used for birdy beaks and I have a new project in mind for small circles cut from some of the larger trimmings.

Right, I need to get back to work, my sister has just invited herself over to stay as she has no hot water or heating at the moment (she lives 5 mins away and generally prefers to ‘drop in’ around the time she knows we are eating!) so I have bedding to change and plenty more tidying to do.  I did want to mention I have had problems leaving comments on Blogspot blogs, it’s all sorted now but please don’t think I am being rude by not saying, “hello”.

Is it a mouse, a cat, a bear…?

For those who know my work, The Linen Cat started with, in fact, a linen bunny which quickly progressed to a cat and these are still my favourite things, I especially love the mix of linen against the bright cotton prints.  The cats/bunnies are, however, one of the most expensive things that I sell as there is a lot of work and fabric involved (all the tweed trousers and dresses are removable and lined) and although I go to every length to make sure they are hard wearing and washable the buttons mean I have to state they are unsuitable for children under 36 months.  I have thought for a while about making something that mixes the same combination of fabrics but is a bit smaller, simpler in construction and young child friendly and also has a hint of my mouse egg cosy.

Some designs are very organic and ‘just happen’, others I think about, draw down and tweak a lot before I am happy.  In this case my starting point was the linen cats/bunnies, the mouse egg cosy and existing patterns (as I have written before I like to try and keep some continuity with shapes and sizes – the latter to make easier packaging and posting!).

Pattern one is based on the one used for the Wool Bunnies, and it’s passable but not right.  The head doesn’t work, I quite like slightly weird shaped heads but I know from sales, not to go too abstract.  By the way, the cute owl fabric is from the new additions at Fabric Rehab and was an extra sent to me on my last order (thanks Sally), I am rather smitten and will have to buy more.

Apart from the head shape, I struggled to stitch up the body, there wasn’t enough room to tuck the arms and legs in (the legs in the corners of the triangle dress were a nightmare) so I have made pattern two wider at the top and I’ve moved the legs in a bit.

I am also trying out new heads in cotton, so I can draw on them and not waste good linen and also because the shapes change so much once stuffed.  I think the cat is the winner but I am worried about making my lovely full size Linen Cats redundant if there is a cheaper smaller more ‘young child’ friendly version.  As always any opinions greatly appreciated.

Hummm, plenty to think on, in the meantime I am waiting for fabric ordered for the project and I need to pre-wash and dye some existing linen.  Little mouse has gone to live on the shelf with some of my other samples…she may get buttons on her dress, just for fun, at a later date.

Happy New Decade!!

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Year.  We had a relaxing time, the boys were suitably over excited and the house became a mass of paper, toys, too much food and over active children, so just perfect.  I insisted on some of my childhood traditions, such as Christmas pyjamas for the boys, they chose bat ones with eyes that glow in the dark.  I let the adults-get-dressed-and-have-a-glass-of-champagne before opening their presents tradition slide as it was just us, in fact in German style M and I opened some of ours on Christmas Eve.

Among MANY other things, Santa brought the boys Playmobil, something I have been resisting due to all the small parts.  I have already hoovered up most of the tiny plastic gold coins from the Pirate Ship by accident so I’m not sure how long the little bits will last and I don’t remember a marathon Krypton Factor style assembly that took me the best part of the morning when I was a kid!  Still, the boys were happy.

I did very well and my not-so-subtle hint for a Jemima Lumley necklace weren’t in vain, I was also the lucky recipient of some nice new photography gear including a 7 in 1 WexPro Reflector.  I wouldn’t think to buy this for myself but M is mildly obsessed with photography equipment and I can already see how useful it’s going to be for photographing shop stock (although there is the comedy routine of watching me try to get it back into it’s packaging in-between use).

Even though I packed the sewing machine up,  I couldn’t resist a little ordering of new materials

including beads and felt for spring birds (which will be similar to the Christmas ones), plus some new postcards and Moo Mini’s which I’ll photograph on arrival.

Over Christmas we wall mounted our old flat TV in the studio/spare room above the rowing machine.  I refuse to allow a TV near any of the main bedrooms, but struggle to make myself row as I get bored, frankly, so I hope the TV might help.  It also swings around facing the spare bed which the boys like to play on, an old Victorian Brass one which used to belong to my Mother and it makes a perfect boat/spaceship, which is exactly what we used it for when we were children.  The bonus is it has allowed me to work in the studio on occasion with relative peace, especially when M and the boys lounged on bed watching Christmas TV or reading whilst I pottered at my bench.

As a result the table surface is now covered in half finished birds (I am waiting on new labels ordered from Tanners to arrive before I can make up the tails).  I used the excuse that empty stackable glass Gu pudding pots make great bead containers as a reason to eat a few extra over the Festive season – tee, hee.

We had a quiet New Year, just nice food and good wine.  I’m not one for thinking too much about the year change to be honest, I don’t make lists (perhaps I should, I like reading everyone elses?) but I am quite excited about C starting Pre-school this year as it will be my first regular time alone for nearly 5 years.  Amongst other things I hope to have more time for The Linen Cat although I’m aware a few hours twice a week will disappear in a flash.

I also wanted to take the opportunity, whilst it’s on my mind to thank everyone who reads this blog and those who take the time to say ‘hello’ and leave such positive comments.  I’ve been blogging for nearly a year and really do enjoy it.  Also, in case it’s not clear, I read everyone that reads me (that I know of at least!) but through Google Reader so I am a bit useless at leaving comments, sorry.  And just for the record, I’m sure you all know this,  I only tend to write about and photograph the ‘fun’ bits, there are whole areas of our house that look like a tip and I frequently get many things wrong.  This is not intended to be misleading or anything, I just write about what I feel like at the time, which tends to be the nice bits of my life.

Right enough waffle, M is doing DIY so my job this afternoon is to keep the boys from nailing themselves to the wall or cutting their arms off, best go as I have heard, “No, Charlie, don’t touch” a few times in the last few minutes – oops!

Christmas Decorations…

Just in case you’ve been asleep and hadn’t noticed that Christmas is practically here, I though I’d share some photos of our Christmas house, past and present to get you in the Festive mood.  As I trawled through photos, I couldn’t help but notice 1. what a really bad camera we used to have hence the grainy photos and 2. how my taste hasn’t changed much over the years and I tend to stick with the same formulas.

The only photos of our last cottage is this one of the stairs (is it worrying that I photograph my Christmas decorations??!….probably!).

We were in the ‘new’ house for Christmas for the first time last year, despite owning it for 3 years.  In between there was a Christmas in Yorkshire and an extended stay at my sisters up the road whilst our house was stripped back to just the walls which went from from 6 weeks to 6 months….whilst very pregnant and with a then 18 month old Felix…less said about that the better I think.

Note the Jan Constantine union jack cushion gracing our chair.  The bits and bobs on a stretched wire on the window (I use the kind people hang net curtains from, stretched into hooks either side so it can easily be removed and stored for next year) has been a standard Christmas decoration for me for a few years, the boys like choosing which ‘things’ from the Christmas box get to hang there.   The cross stitch cards above come out every year as my Gran made them, she stitched nearly 90 every year for all her friends and family, starting in January with the next batch, I kid you not.

This year the kitchen has it’s usual white, bright look

(I emptied and cleaned all the jars as they were getting a bit dusty), even the cake had a bit of a silver and white thing going on due to a lack of coloured icing

and I sprayed the seed heads from Allium Purple Sensation that I have been storing in the greenhouse silver

you just throw them at the tree, after removing the stalks and get wonderful silver pompoms that stick all on their own.  The bright touch in the kitchen (there is always a bright touch against the whiteness) comes from the famous Mouse Advent Calender.

The tree looks remarkably like last years, being in the same place but this time with the addition of the new Fairy and a mixture of the Red Robins and Gold and Purple birds.

They work really well, I think and go very nicely with the wonderful red pompom’s that I bought some years ago from Pedlars, one of my best Christmas buys.

You may also notice some biscuits on the tree, I make these with the boys (to a Nigella recipe) and it’s always funny to see that there are little bites out of many of them after a few days!  I don’t even attempt chocolate decorations as they wouldn’t last a second.  The floor still hasn’t been laid so it’s our third year of cheap lino and no skirting…this is a half done house but we are getting there.  The picture behind is a signed Jamie Hewlett Gorillaz print, bought for me by husband as he knows I’m a Jamie Hewlett fan.  As you can see I have very eclectic taste, old watercolours and etchings sit happily along side modern work in our house, as does antique furniture next to modern design.

The last shot is of Doris/Glenda/Tammy sitting atop the tree, at the end of the day my Gran’s original paper version really is getting very fragile so from now on this is our new tree topper.

For anyone who hasn’t decorated yet (yeah, right!) I hope that gets you in the mood.

Playing Catch-up…

It’s all go around here, I am ‘confined’ to the kitchen/living area again, this time because we have the decorators working in the hallway.  I am very excited as I am normally the painter and decorator but I really don’t have time, it’s odd paying someone else to do it, feels a bit like money down the drain but it’s so very exciting to peek in and see the transformation and there is no way with Mr C still at home full time that I could have done it.

The shop has also been busy, I seem to be packing and posting throughout the day.  In fact I had a run on fairies which I wasn’t expecting so there has been a lot of this

frantic last minute making, and I ran out of cashmere bears so have had to run up a batch of those

I am slightly alarmed that I will run out of the lovely cashmere/wool blend fabric as I only bought 6 meters and it was an ebay find so is all gone now.  I love it so much, I’m not sure what I will replace it with.  I have been doing a bit of ebay fabric buying recently, in fact this lovely Liberty Tana Lawn arrived this morning

The pattern is ‘Wiltshire’ and I have bought it for next winter (thinking ahead!).  My winter coat has the same fabric as lining and I have had a project in mind for some time, one I had planned for this year but haven’t had time for.

I’ve also packed up some stock for the School Christmas Bazaar,

they were asking for ‘homemade’ items to sell so this is my contribution.

There has been time for a little cooking, the squash I grew makes a great decoration but I wanted to make sure some gets eaten whilst still in it’s prime.  I made a squash pizza from the book Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros, one of my favourite cook books which has the best photos.

I am done now.  No more making for the shop, if I run out, I run out but I have blinds to make for my sister and still a bag to make for my Mother and I want some time to tidy and decorate the house (tidy being the big one right now) so I have decided to sew for the shop this week and then stop.  Yeah, right!  Like that’s gonna happen.

Finally, as always, I have found just a little bit of time for some online shopping (other than fabric) and I treated myself to

some Christmas origami cranes on the Folksy shop Little Crane to hang in the kitchen window and some book name stickers bought from the wonderfully talented (come on, we all know her) Emily Martin over at the black apple.

Right, need to get on, things to do, places to go and all that.  Oh, there’s still time to enter my Christmas giveaway if you haven’t left a comment, go on, it’s free!

(PS sorry for the dodgy photos but the light has been very bad as of late)

Christmas give away…

Yep, I am feeling festive and my Online Shop is about to turn 1 (this is in fact my second shop, the first was created in Google but was a bit hard work so I moved to MrSite last December), so what better way to celebrate than with a festive Christmas give away.  So, I have one Plum Fairy and one set of Purple and Gold Birds up for grabs (she looks rather dull but I promise Plum Fairy is a rather jaunty shade of purple not dingy brown).

All you have to do is leave a comment on this post, any comment, doesn’t have to be long, just say ‘hi there’ if that’s all you wish and comments must be left by Friday 27th November.  I’ll post anywhere, but abroad will be by regular Airmail so it may take a while.

That’s it.  Ahhhh, my first ever give away, almost brings a tear to the eye…

Where did they go…?

When I came to pack up the Bunny Lavender Bags photographed the last post (thank’s Kirsten!) I was surprised their storage box looked like this

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where did they all go?  Well I guess that’s a daft question, I’ve sold them all except the last lonely three left, of which I plan to keep one as a sample.

When I originally made them, my husband was not keen, he really didn’t like them so much so that I gave them a low price and then they went in the sale with a really, really low price.  They then turned out to be one of my best sellers which just proves my husband knows nothing about these things and I should trust my instinct.

A little trip down iPhoto memory lane reminds me I had a nightmare marking out the patterns

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and that the originals were to have button tails and were to come in four colour ways

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but my finished Bunnies were most definitely cute enough

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so much so that I will miss them and plan to make more after a Bunny break, probably next year now and most definitely in time for Easter (yes, yes I am always thinking ahead for the shop, sorry), but for now there are two green ones left on Folksy ready to hop away and when they’re gone, they’re gone!…well ’till next year anyway.

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.

New Photos…

Did you notice the banner change above?  I sneaked it in a while ago, it was time to update my linen cats/bunnies line with some of the more recent stock, can’t help but notice that the green dress bunny is rather snuggly with the check trousered cat, not sure how that happened.

When I have to photograph new stock, here’s how it goes.  I notice the weather is perfect for a spot of photography (bright enough to show the colours but not so as to have too strong a shadow), I rush to get my needs-to-be-photographed stock which is inevitably in the bottom box.  I clear my table/floor/bed and lay out the stock, rather too quickly, in between making cheese sandwhich/juice/changing the tv channel (bad mother!)/fixing the lego robot back together for the umptenth time.  I grab camera, discover it’s out of battery, quick mini charge, set up tripod…..oh bugger, the sun’s gone in.

Also my boys LOVE having their photo taken, seriously, Charlie sees a camera and shoves his face into shot and says cheese.  He cries a lot if you don’t photograph him so I end up with plenty of these

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We haven’t been burgled in the back of this last shot, it’s a crazy mid builders mess shot and don’t even ask what happened to the white wall on the rhs.

However, last time around I did get some usable photos so finally we have

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as made back here and after having their beady little….er bead….eyes sown on, they are ready for listing on return from our Yorkshire holiday as part of the Christmas Shop update.

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Just for the record, my favourite are the dark red and mustard ones.

Christmas Fairies…

I talk a lot about my love of hoarding, vintage and especially about my Gran’s belongings, at Christmas it is a custom for us to have her fairy on the tree.  We think it is from her early married days so probably mid 1930’s and sadly, is getting a little worse for wear so say the least.

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My Mother allowed me to use it for the last two years, as she spent Christmas with us (Grandchildren change everything) and I figured it was about time I made a copy before the original disintegrates entirely.  I had planned to make an exact copy of the original, in card and tissue, but realised that it would translate well into fabric so back in June when I was in ‘Wet Yorkshire ModeI treated myself to some new silk and got working on a sample.

I am amazed at how slow my design progress was on this one.  I sort of pottered on a bit every now and again, in fact, the silk inspired me to make my sweet pea cushions in July first.

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By September I figured I had better get a move on so some of the bodies were made, M remarked at the time that they looked like aliens and I fear he was not wrong.

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There are some rather cross and bog-eyed fairies in this batch but I rather think that’s the beauty of handmade, it would be boring if they were identical.  The wings were a bit tricky to stitch in the slippery silk

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but finally they are done, or the first few anyway.  They are a little plumper than the original (but aren’t we all!) and the hair has a definite Tammy Wynette feel, I am sure if I was designing them from sctatch they would be a little more stylised but I am pleased with the result.

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They are made in silk and wool, with the exception of the silver ric-rac.  I am not a fan of using glue, don’t know why as there is no real reason, but I had to UHU then stitch the hair into place and the backs have a long ribbon for tying them into the tree, or looping so they can be hung as an ornament.

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My final problem is trying get a true colour photo of the plum version.  As you can see I haven’t really nailed that one yet, even outside in natural light the colour is very off, in reality it’s a bright plum purple.

I am not sure how I will price these, they take an insane amount of work and the silk isn’t cheap but the price has to be affordable so I’ll need to think on that one.

Right, only a few more days of hand sewing to get the rest finished!