Sunday, 29 March 2015

Scenes of Cambridge...


As my current projects around my home remain only part completed, I did have a lovely afternoon a few weeks ago wandering around the college quarter of Cambridge. As Cambridge is only an hour from London, I'm quite embarrassed to admit that it has been at least 8 years since I was last here. Like Oxford, it such a lovely place to wander.

Although it is technically spring here, it was still a cold and gloomy afternoon...but touches of spring were apparent in some of the window boxes, if not yet in the actual temperature...










So much history, so much beautiful architecture, and a great number of lovely tea shops in which to warm up with a cup of tea and a scone with jam and cream - a pretty perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon...

Monday, 2 March 2015

Customising bathroom storage...


One of the rooms I plan to redecorate/lightly renovate this year is the bright blue bathroom. I've been gradually collecting bits and pieces as I've seen them that will be added to the room. The new vanity mirror, wall sconces and ceiling light are ready and waiting.

I spent months stalking ebay for a glass-fronted cupboard to add much needed storage to the room. The bathroom has an Edwardian style pedestal sink, so there are no other places to store/hide the clutter of bathroom essentials. While I was in Australia I finally found a cupboard that was the perfect dimensions to fit the space, and at an equally perfect price (only £20!). I collected it once I returned and it is now in place ready for the other elements of the room to change around it.

One of the problems with the use of a glass fronted cabinet, is finding pretty storage options for what will go inside it - those that should and shouldn't be seen. When I was in Home Sense last week I found this nice metal storage crate. It had the perfect dimensions and I thought it would be just right to store spare hand towels and loo roll. However, I was less than impressed with the rough canvas insert.

So, using fabric I had left over from when I made the kitchen blind, it now looks like this...



Much better - and with some pretty cotton lace detail as well. Now I just need to get on with making plans for the rest of the room...

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Paisley crewelwork at the RSN, Hampton Court Palace...


I am belatedly catching up with and completing some embroidery projects that I started in the latter part of last year. One weekend in November, I returned to the Royal School of Needlework to do a two-day course in paisley crewelwork. The tutor for the course was Florence Collingwood who I hadn't learnt from before, but whose teaching style I very much enjoyed.


This was a very enjoyable piece to work as it included such a variety of stitches, including some of the very traditional Jacobean elements such as trellis. It also included stem stitch, block shading, long and short, satin stitch, bullions and french knots, single and double seeding, herringbone, cretan and vandyke stitch, and finally some whipped and woven wheels. A number of these stitches were new to me, and for others it was a good refresher.


Paisley designs are inextricably linked with the town of Paisley (near Glasgow in Scotland) which was one of the major centres of shawl manufacturers. Originating with weavers in Kashmir who had produced exquisite cloth shawls for centuries, shawls began to be brought to the UK through the movements of British travellers, troops and merchants. With increasing popularity, the silk and cashmere shawls became covetable fashion items. Local industries then set out to produce similar items at a lesser cost to meet the growing demand. Paisley shawls were manufactured in a range of textiles including woven cashmere, embroidered wool and printed silk. One of the most common motifs used in paisley work is the tear drop design.

Of course a trip to the RSN at Hampton Court Palace is not complete with at least some time spent admiring the beautiful grounds from the vantage point of the RSN classroom windows...




The first day was one of those beautifully sunny winter days we do get on occasion here in England - however, the long, low shadows certainly indicate that winter was definitely approaching (and from memory, the second day of the course was misty, cold and damp!). However, the Saturday was still revealing some late blooms in the rose garden...


I spent a bit of time over the past weekend finishing off the design. It was the first time I had embellished my embroidery (other than when I did the goldwork course), but I like the effect that adding the vintage buttons and a few sequins provided - I think it gives a bit of whimsy to the design. I plan to frame this piece (along with some of the others I've completed at the RSN) to line my hallway.


One of the reasons I wanted to complete this piece is that I'm off to the RSN again this weekend where I am doing another Jacobean crewelwork course. But it is nice to tick one of the 'unfinished' projects off my list!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Sydney sojourn...


I recently returned from three lovely weeks in Sydney...although I have no photos to show for it, apart from this of the lovely flowering gum in my mother's garden which always times bursting into bloom with my visit.

As usual, the time seemed to go past so quickly. Three glorious weeks of spending time with family and catching up with friends (including a quick overnight trip to Brisbane) and before I knew it, it was time to head home to the UK.

I have a few projects stacked up here for which I need to start developing an action plan...

  • After months of searching on ebay, I have finally found the perfect size glass fronted cabinet for the bathroom. Soon to receive a new lease of life with some ASCP.
  • The surprise purchase of four dining chairs - I have long planned to update my existing ikea versions, but was undecided as to what to choose (I toyed with the idea of antique bentwood chairs for a long while). A fortuitous search on gumtree just after I arrived home resulted in the acquisition of four faux bamboo Chippendale style chairs. So, in addition to repainting, I will also be trying my hand at re-upholstering for the first time...
  • I have another embroidery course coming up at Hampton Court Palace this coming weekend so have been busy finishing off one of my other projects.
  • Finally, after many months of waiting, the landscape gardener is coming this week to rid my front garden of all of the horrible rocks, and build some proper garden beds for me. Hurrah! Just in time for some spring planting.
Now I just need to get started...

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Developing crewelwork at the Royal School of Needlework...


In 2014, I attended another three short courses at the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace. Somewhat ashamedly, I have only just managed to complete the first project, despite actually attending the 'Developing Crewelwork' course back in August.

For two lovely summery days, this was our view from the teaching studio...


Part of me thinks that the view is worth the course fees alone...

During the course we were taught how to transfer our design onto the fabric using the prick and pounce method which was new to me.

And many months later, here is the finished product - well the embroidery is finished. I think I will likely make this into a cushion for the sitting room...but first I need to definitely come to a decision as to what final colour accents I will be using so I can chose a toning backing fabric.



As ever, the teaching quality of the RSN programme was excellent - if you are UK based, or here on holiday it is such a lovely way to spend a day or two...

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The main bedroom - adding some much needed storage...

Just before my sister came to visit in September, I spent a week banishing the dark pink walls of the main bedroom, and replacing them with an altogether more serene shade of pale grey (Shadows by Little Greene). However, what this room still lacked was any decent storage for clothes.

One of the jobs I had always intended to do from the time I bought the cottage was to have wardrobes built-in to the alcoves on either side of the chimney breast. To bring back some authenticity to the room, I also wanted to reinstate the Victorian fireplace.

Joe (the builder - but actually a carpenter by trade), spent a week custom building wardrobes for me. They are predominantly made from mdf. He completed all of the woodwork, and then I spent a weekend repeating multiple coats of primer followed by a satinwood finish (Pure Brilliant White Satinwood by Dulux). He also installed a simple cornice all around the perimeter of the room to make the finished robes look seamless.



I'm delighted with how they have turned out - and it is a novelty to be able to store clothes in the bedroom!

I chose a simple shaker style for the door trim, and added small glass faceted door knobs to tie in with the curtain finials and the chandelier...


For the final touch to the room he also installed an original Victorian combination fireplace that I had found on eBay. This chimney is one of those I had capped in the summer, so it was never intended to be a working fire - however, it does allow for positive air pressure to flow from the room into the chimney breast and prevent damp from occurring.

It is nice to bring both some much needed utility and some character to the room. My next job is to finally get some curtains made for the window, and then start to think about the finishing touches in decorating the room...

Thursday, 1 January 2015

The kitchen refresh...the final touches


2015! A happy new year to all!

Back in mid-December I had a builder spend the week here completing the first round of small building work I plan to undertake around the cottage.

Part of his efforts was to add the final touch to my mini kitchen refresh. I finished the repainting of walls, cupboards and the re-tiling back in August. However, there was one glaring element that was beyond my DIY skills that I couldn't wait to change...

The original sink (image above) was made of dark grey/black moulded fibre-glass. As well as not being to my taste, I just felt that I was never really able to get it clean - this was mainly due to the difficulty in removing the existing lime scale staining and build up (this is a problem in this part of the UK, as it is a hard-water area).

But, thanks to Joe's efforts, I now have a lovely alternative - a white ceramic sink (Reginox) and a new mixer tap (ikea).



It is actually now a pleasure to wash dishes!

And, until such time as I embark on the kitchen extension, this is the first room that I can say is now complete!