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the neverending story

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I know I said we were taking a sanity break between bathrooms, but it really wasn’t that long, I promise. In fact, we started and finished the en suite well over a year ago. It’s just that we sold the house practically as the last tile was being laid and moved to a cottage in the countryside about three months later. And no, that wasn’t in the plan at all.

So here’s the en suite we waited ten years for and enjoyed for less than three months. It was almost enough to make me think twice about moving. Almost.

P1220098

oops i did it again

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A couple of years ago I mentioned that I may possibly have something of a builder fetish. (No, not like that for goodness sake. Get your mind out of the gutter.) It’s just that we seem to be unable to go more than a year or so without doing something major to the house.

This year it’s the turn of the bathrooms.

Ok, that sounded rather more ominous than I intended. Although it is pretty serious; our family bathroom and en suite are in such a state after ten years of relentless use (and let’s face it, they weren’t great to start with, having apparently been constructed in somewhat of a rush by our house’s previous owners) that we are completely gutting them and starting again. In the case of the family bathroom, this also involves reorganising the (frankly shit) layout to give ourselves enough space to move around in the room and changing the door around so it opens inwards instead of outwards into our very narrow landing, where it blocks access to one of the bedrooms.

Currently we are at the halfway point, having completed the family bathroom and decided to take a sanity break before embarking on the en suite. So I thought I’d show you the progress so far as I’m rather pleased with how it’s turned out, especially as most some of the best ideas were mine.

apart from the lights - they were nick's idea

new adventures in quilting

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charming

On my recent visit to the Knitting and Stitching Show I impulsively bought what I now know is called a charm pack; a pack of pre-cut fabric squares for quilting. For some time I’ve had the vague idea that I’d like to try sewing a quilt (by machine, not hand – I’m not a masochist), probably firstly inspired by another WordPress blog, sazmakes.

stitched together

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the internet and of course that was my first port of call when researching how to turn those little fabric squares into something that could grace a (toddler-size) bed. Dear reader, the internet is truly a wonderful thing. It held my hand every step of the way and gave me the confidence to produce something so much better than I thought I would. I probably didn’t quite do everything the way I should have done, but nevertheless I’m rather proud of the result.

The pattern itself is fairly straightforward; diagonal stitching across the squares of fabric, which I sewed together in rows, then sewed the rows together. I decided halfway through to add a border and used the same fabric for backing the quilt. Not having bound square edges before I played safe and used ready-made binding, although if I made another I think I’d have a go at making my own. A bit of research came up with a way to machine stitch the binding so that it looks like it’s hand stitched from the front, and another search showed me how to deal with the corners. You can’t really see as the binding’s too dark, but those are rather neat mitred corners if I do say so myself!

I really enjoyed making this quilt and plan to do a more complex one at some point – that is, once I’ve finished all my other projects in progress of course…

in the middle of our street

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A couple of years ago I wrote about my history of moving house, an event that featured regularly throughout my childhood and even into my twenties. I have a horrible suspicion I may finally have become a grown-up as in the past 15 years I have lived in just two houses, both of which I bought with my own borrowed money.

That said, there was a house that was a constant for the first 30-odd years of my life, a house that I always loved to return to and for some years harboured dreams of owning and living in as an adult. There was nothing outwardly special about this house; to the casual observer it was a perfectly ordinary 1930s semi in a Bristol suburb. To me as a child however, it was a rich playground, full of special places as familiar to me as my own bedroom; the oil cloth around the carpet in my Nana’s bedroom that became a beach for the animal figures I played with, the little landing that she called the ‘Juliet balcony’ where I made tents with sheets and clothes horses, the anteroom leading off her bedroom where she kept her sewing box which was like a treasure trove to me and (don’t judge me) the amazing old-fashioned pantry in her tiny kitchen that I would sneak into and just look at the contents, fascinated, for hours. I still really want my own pantry; my current kitchen has a bricked-up window that probably belonged to one when the house was built and trust me, I have given serious consideration to reinstating it.

Sadly, when my Grandad eventually went into a home just over ten years ago, the house had to be sold and I wasn’t in a position geographically or financially to be able to buy it myself, although I have been lucky enough to inherit two of my favourite objects from it – my Nana’s sewing box and my Grandad’s piano. A few years ago I had an urge to look the house up on Google Maps to see if it had changed at all. The emotional tsunami that hit me when I saw the same cracked concrete driveway that I had taken my first steps on as a toddler was totally unexpected; I was quite literally reduced to tears instantly – and I don’t cry easily.

I’m often struck by the contrast with my own children’s upbringing, which by its nature has been very settled; Alice was barely a year old when we last moved so remembers nothing of her first home and emphatically doesn’t want to leave this one, which she considers her family home. Having transformed the house almost beyond recognition from the one we moved into, that sentiment is completely fine with me as I have absolutely no intention of moving out of it… for now.

busy doing nothing

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Since being inspired to take up knitting after stumbling across Kate Davies’ blog, I’ve been reading more craft blogs, which has also encouraged me to return to sewing; not so much needlework at the moment but machine sewing. I treated myself to a new machine a couple of years ago, replacing my old Singer that was my 18th birthday present, and was thrilled with how easy the new one was to use and how quickly it would run things up. Although I’ve done some fairly mundane stuff on it – taking hems up, sewing badges on for the girls, that kind of thing – recently I’ve done a few small projects that I’ve been able to complete in a day.

A cushion for my sewing stool was the first one, the logic being that I would then have somewhere comfortable to sit while working on subsequent projects. With the same fabric I then made a Two Kates knitting bag, pattern courtesy of the aforementioned Kate Davies. Having seen the gorgeous items produced by Sarah on sazmakes, including this potholder and this quilt, I’m itching to have a go at quilting next; I did some for my never-completed City & Guilds in Embroidery many moons ago, so I’m sure I can get my head round it again.

In the meantime, my knitting obsession is still going strong, having churned out three more sets of handwarmers, two hats, a scarf, a pair of slipper socks, a jumper and the best part of a lap blanket (shamelessly plagiarised inspired by this one) since my first foray 18 months ago. If you’re into such things, you can find most of these on my Ravelry, apart from the blanket as it’s still in progress…

I already have my next project lined up, once again a pattern by the inimitable Kate Davies, a headband to keep my ears warm on days when I don’t want or need to wear a hat. You may have noticed some of the wool peeking out from my Two Kates bag; I’m quite excited about starting this project mainly because of the colours I’ve picked. Look at that purple! And the way the weather’s headed right now, it’ll still come in handy even if I don’t finish it until the summer.

on the seventh day

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Sunday is such a day of contrasts; the morning so full of promise and the evening quiet and subdued in the knowledge of things to come. For all that and more, Sunday is my favourite day of the week. Let me show you why.

How could a day that starts this way be anything but good?

I had big plans for my Sunday… plagiarising working out a pattern for a jumper…

…followed by some knitting…

…and then spending quality time with my kitchen.

Others were busy in their own fashion…

…while Nick was creating a wedding hamper for a friend…

…which I couldn’t help but get involved with, especially as my baking and crafting expertise were required.

We always take time out for (late) lunch if we’re at home on Sunday.

And I took time out for a little blogging with a taster of one of the wedding hamper goodies.

I may not have achieved everything on my list today, but it is Sunday after all. And there’s always another one next weekend.

raindrops on roses

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No, I’m not about to go all Julie Andrews on you, I’ve just been reading the WordPress weekly writing challenge which is all about your most meaningful possession. I don’t normally do writing challenges, daily posts, photo a day what-have-yous for the simple reasons that I’m a) lazy and b) stubborn, so not only would I not get round to a regular post (you may have noticed, ahem) but I would also probably rebel against being told what to post about in the first place. That said, for some reason this one started me thinking: do I have any meaningful possessions (apparently your beloved technology doesn’t count, boo), what are they and why do they mean something to me? The first object that sprang to mind was my old faithful sewing box.

So I know it’s not very exciting, certainly not at all sexy and you would be forgiven for rolling your eyes in the direction of this dowdy wooden leggy box, as Nick did when I first acquired it (along with comments like “you don’t really want to keep THAT, do you?”). But unfortunately for him, I do very much want to keep it, not least because it plays a starring role in one of my favourite childhood memories. The sewing box originally belonged to my Nana, whose house I stayed at regularly as a child in the school holidays. The house itself was a consistent feature throughout my childhood; the only house that was as I moved home before the age of 18 far too many times to count on my fingers. It was (and no doubt still is) a fairly spacious and light-filled semi-detached four bed in a quiet suburban road in Bristol, just the thought of which has the power to evoke a rush of nostalgia; even now I have the strongest memories of visits there.

In one of the smaller bedrooms lived her sewing box, which to me was a virtual treasure trove. It contained rows and rows of multi-coloured elastic, bias binding and threads. There were mysterious boxes full of needles, pins and other accoutrements that rattled when shaken. There was, rather excitingly to the young me, a bag full of different coloured ribbon, which Nana would sometimes let us wear in our hair tied at the end of plaits or atop bunches. Best of all, the thing I would always ask to play with, was her button stash. She had boxes and tins full of them, roughly sorted by size and for the smaller ones, colour. My favourites were the more interestingly shaped ones, the oversized nubbly oddities. With my child’s imagination, these took on individual personalities and I would spend hours creating stories for them or just searching through to see how many multiples of the same button I could find. I was lucky enough to inherit this collection too, although the poor sewing box is now too stuffed with my many bits and bobs to hold them.

My Nana was an accomplished seamstress, as were many women of her generation, and she had kept some dresses she made for my mother as a child, which I remember trying on with my sister when we were quite small. She also made us a rag doll each, one of which still survives at my stepdad’s house, that my own children now play with when we visit. It may well have been these that sparked my own interest in sewing; as a teenager, inspired by her industry, I made a pair of dolls from the same pattern which my girls also play with now (and have rather distressingly christened Rosie and Jim).

Sadly, the reason I now own the sewing box is because neither my Nana or my mother are around to use it any more, but I think of them both whenever I see it, which brings back many more happy memories than sad ones. Maybe one day it will even do the same for my grandchildren.