I’m off out today, for the whole day on my own. The very first time since I had the little sproglet back in July last year.
And I’m not just on any day out, but starting the first day of a new course: the RHS horticulture certificate (level 2). Which is a slightly confusing title since, as far as I can find, there is no level 1. At least, I hope not, otherwise I’m going to be a total dunce when I arrive.
For the rest of the year, once a week I’ll have a break from nappies and get to spend a day learning about plants and seeds, soil and weeds, garden design, mulch and a host of other things.
So, in honour of this momentous occasion, I thought I’d leave you with a few vintage gardening pictures… (Vintage pictures being, as I’m sure you agree, one of the best ways of celebrating just about anything.)
Hopefully by the time I’ve finished the course in a year, I’ll have my very own floral fantasy in an old English garden. And maybe I’ll float around it in a kaftan, gazing into what may well be a crystal ball or perhaps a gigantic drop of dew…
Contrary Mary’s garden is looking rather lovely with lots of nice tulips. Ample watering seems to be the key.
Ahem. “How does my lady’s garden grow?” I shan’t say anything more about that.
Wish me luck remembering the Latin names of all the plants today!
Just a quick message to everyone arriving at my blog today: please excuse its squiffy appearance!
As far as I know, my blog hasn’t been out drinking late last night and isn’t suffering from a hangover. No, I think instead there is some problem with WordPress, which is causing my footers to show on the right hand side, and those ugly blue and black horizontal lines to be showing up half way down the page.
I’ve just been visiting the WordPress support forum and lots of people appear to be having problems today, so let’s hope they fix it up soon.
(Apologies to WordPress if I do later find out my blog snuck out in the early hours and drank too much gin.)
Since we’re talking lines, I thought I’d share with you a quick picture of some amazing fabric I stumbled across recently on Pinterest, made just with lines. Hopefully this will take your attention away from my ugly blog design for a second or two:
It’s called Richter, is designed by Bonnee Sharp for Bon Studio and you can buy it from Schumacher. I love the repetition of the really simply pattern and the irregular spacing of the repeats. It reminds me of a visual representation of sound waves (though I suppose it is inspired by the richter scale used to measure earthquakes…)
Stunning. Now please, mull on those lines and not the horrible ones sticking through the centre of this page…
Waaaay back in December I told you about some homemade soaps I made for Christmas presents. I said I had great plans for the packaging, which I was planning on sharing if they came off.
Well, I’m sure you’ve hardly been able to concentrate in 2013 for wondering, nay, worrying if it all came together in the end. Perhaps you took my silence on the matter as a bad sign. You feared, I am sure, some packaging catastrophe had occurred, the memory of which was so upsetting for me, I couldn’t bear to re-live it on my blog. (“It’s a safe place,” you wanted to reassure me, “you can share anything here…”)
Worry not, though, my boxes came off a treat – better than I could have hoped. My wait was just because I wanted to pester my partner into helping me get a template for them into pdf form to share with you all… (I’m a bit of a thicko when it comes to any sort of design work on the computer, so even this basic use of lines was a bit beyond me…)
So this was the final result:
I’d tried a few other templates I’d seen first, but none worked properly for the size of my soaps.
So I drew the dimensions I wanted on a piece of A4 and, a bit of head-scratching later, realised that you actually only needed to make four straight cuts to create a box and decided to just make my own. Away I went…
I bought some nice ocean coloured card to make the box with and used one of my favourite vintage labels, which are free to download at the World Label blog. Obviously, the ribbon was the final touch…
But back to the present day. Two months later, with the template finally ready to share, I tested it out by making a second box. For this one, I used a sheet of A4 printed one side with this gorgeous feather image, from the Graphics Fairy blog, and on the other with my template.
All went well! So the suspense is finally over and the tutorial and template follow, in case you’ve got a hankering to make your own gift box too…
A piece of A4 card or paper. As the side you print the template on will form the inside of the box, you could use some coloured card, or simply print a nice design onto the other side of the paper.
I try and live a relatively “green” life, but I could hardly claim to be an early adopter.
Back in my carefree, childless days (otherwise known as my early 20s) I used to flit around the capital doing fun things and, I have to admit, rather scoff at people who were overly concerned about the environment. Sure, I minded about things like the polar bears dying out or pandas or whatever, but to translate that concern into actions in my every day life seemed a bit tedious. Verging on the overly fastidious and definitely lacking in humour.
I remember watching a friend cook supper and then wash out the tins of beans after she’d emptied them. I asked why. She said she was going to recycle them and they needed to be clean. Really, I thought to myself, that is taking things a step too far… Lighten up, love, live a little, put them in the damn bin! Don’t waste your time washing up your rubbish…
Now, of course, I would never dream of not recycling tins. Why would I not? It only takes a second and helps to prevent landfill. (Though I do often sneak them into the recycling bin unwashed…)
It’s not something I’ve ever consciously U-turned on. There was no Damascene conversion, just a gradual shift as time’s gone on. Old(er) age in me? Changes in society? Both, most likely.
Nowadays, I recycle, have a wormery, use my own bags, watch my water consumption, turn off light switches, buy organic, blah blah blah; all the standard, liberal, woolly green behaviour of your average Guardian-reading Londoner.
But I remembered my (carefree, thin, smoking) twenty-year-old self the other day when I decided to make some of my own deodorant. Honestly. Making my own deodoorant! Once, if I’d heard that someone made their own deodorant I would have rolled my eyes, exhaled a puff of smoke in the middle of the restaurant and made some droll quip about knitting their own yoghurt…*
In fact, even the week before making the deodorant, I might have thought this was a step too far. As I mentioned in my post the other day about homemade cleaning products, I am always suspicious of people who make their own cleaning products / beauty stuff and then proclaim them to be “better” than the expensive mass-produced chemical-filled products they were previously using.
Yes, there are hundreds of reasons not to use aerosols, but it could never be said that one of them is that they don’t work. All of the noxious, dangerous chemicals filling up these things make pretty sure they work really well.
And let’s face it, nobody wants to smell.
But, inspired by the shame I’d felt looking at that great cupboard of natural products, I decided to have a crack at some homemade deodorant.
I found a simple-sounding recipe on How about Orange, which uses coconut oil, baking powder, arrowroot and grapefruit essential oil, and thought I would give it a bash — fully expecting it to meet the same fate of my homemade cleaning products. (Tried for a day or two then relegated to the back of the shelf in favour of some shop-bought but effective alternative…)
But to my surprise, this was a total success.
Firstly, the deodorant smells great. I am possibly the world’s biggest fan of anything with grapefruit aromas, so the grapefruit essential oil in this couldn’t be beaten by anything shop-bought in my opinion.
Then there’s the cute little tin. There’s something imminently appealing about your deodorant sitting on your dresser in a shiny silver tin, with a nice label on, rather than an ugly plastic spray bottle. (The round vintage labels are from the world label blog if you want to print some yourself…)
I was initially put off by the idea of scooping it out by hand and rubbing it into my armpits, thinking it would leave my fingers greasy. But really it’s totally not a problem at all, and it means that I actually get it into the right place as well (the number of times I’ve sprayed an aerosol into my eyes, or my clothes, or the side of my body, or just in the air behind me. Okay, most people probably don’t have that problem, but it was a frequent one for me…)
And, finally, it actually works! That was the outcome I was perhaps expecting the least.
So, an all round success story for my first attempt in 2013 of using up the eco beauty ingredients stash. Any other suggestions for things I should try? Post a comment below and let me know any ideas…
You’ve probably noticed my lovely new header, sitting there looking gorgeous right up above this blog post.
The illustration is by an amazing artist called Paola Zakimi. Here’s a bigger look at it, so you can really admire the full glory:
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’d been looking for vintage wolf images for my blog header, but not meeting with any success (due to the rather grizzly portrayal of the poor old wolf…)
Then in my Googling I stumbled across this amazing print of a girl wearing a wolf mask on Etsy. I emailed Paola, the owner of the shop, and it turned out she could make me my very own wolf illustration. The beauty of which you can see right here, any time you drop by my blog. I know. Amazing.
She also made me a fabulous logo, which you can see on my About me page.
If you like these, take a look at Paola’s Etsy shop, Holli, where she sells prints of her amazing illustrations. Or visit her website www.paolazakimi.com for more info about her.
I love it when a knitting pattern has a good name.
My (relatively) recently completed Wurm hat carries a great moniker. Even though I had little to say about the project itself (“Knit a hat. Finished it. It is nice.”) I was tempted to write a blog post about it, just so I could call it A “wurm” and fuzzy feeling. Ha ha, I know, a comedian in the making right here.
Other great names I’ve knitted include the Shale baby blanket, the name of which manages to sound rugged and rural at the same time as cosy and warm. Oh, and if anyone out there is looking for a baby blanket pattern, I recommend this one. Definitely the best one I’ve come across and it’s proved amazingly versatile and useful in the first six months of my little sproglet’s existence.
The Star crossed slouchy beret brings a touch of Shakespeare and ill-fated love to the otherwise prosaic act of keeping your head warm. (Though, sadly, I didn’t display similar levels of genius when knitting it, instead messing up the cables…)
And it was partly the fabulous name of the Arsenic and old lace shawl that convinced me to cast on and tackle something way out of my knitting league. (Which reminds me: must dig that out of my project box and have a crack at finally finishing it…)
More successfully knitted than the last two examples, but just as pleasingly named, is the star of this post. Fresh off the needles, this falling water scarf.
This is a belated Christmas present for my godmother and I’m pretty pleased how it’s turned out. In my usual style, I woefully overestimated the amount of time I have for knitting and cast on in January, thinking I’d have it finished in a week, tops. Yeah. Five weeks later I’ve just sewn in the last end and blocked it.
I wouldn’t choose a brown for a scarf myself, but I know she wears browns and oranges the most, so I hope she likes it (and doesn’t think it’s too poo-coloured, ha ha…)
The pattern, by Bonnie Sennott, is really simple to understand and quick to memorise. And, the staple of most good patterns as far as I’m concerned, free on Ravelry.
My yarn choice was probably a bit off. The last lace scarf I made ended up too fluffy, because I used wool with a lot of alpaca in it. This time, in response, I seem to have swung widely to the other extreme, choosing a crisp cotton glace by Rowan. The stitch definition is very clear but it’s not as soft (nor, I suspect, warm) as it would be if I’d stuck to wool.
Don’t keep me on the fence, darlings, just say the word…
Hope you’re all having a lovely Valentine’s Day, wherever and however you’re celebrating.
And if you’ve just gone “Shoot, it’s Valentine’s Day, I completely forgot!” then take a look at my article on the top ten homemade Valentine’s presents, there are definitely a few ideas here you could whip up at the last minute…
I think it’ll give you an idea of the sort of child I was if I tell you I used to think bookplates were glamorous. The height of desirability.
Not for me a sandpit or a doll, no, I could think of nothing better than a quiet corner and a new book, with the pleasure of sticking a bookplate to the front and filling in my name under “this book belongs to” in my neatest possible handwriting.
To be honest, not so much has changed in the 30 odd years since then. That still sounds a pretty auspicious start to any Saturday. (Not least because, with a six-month-old, there isn’t a hope in hell that I’d get to start a Saturday in that way…)
But having rather forgotten about the existence of bookplates in the intervening years, I’ve been pleased to notice them popping up all over the shop recently…
You can buy them from a few different places, but of course they’re really simple to make too.
I whipped up a few sets for my Mum and my sister-in-law (both voracious bibliophiles as well) as mini presents back at Christmas.
There are quite a few different templates available out there on the internet (oh, internet, how I love you), but I settled on favourites from three places:
To see some more designs, as well as lots of other great vintage images, check out my Pinterest board Free Graphics.
Once you’ve selected your pictures, just print them out and cut them to size (I did this with a craft knife and ruler, which shows the level of care I give to my books, where I would normally just stick to good ol’ scissors).
As these were a present, I decided to make some cute little envelopes to house each of the sets. I made a basic template and then cut each envelope from cardstock and glued together.
As a final touch, I traced round the envelope tip and cut a liner out of some printed out hat images. (Which you can find here on Vintage Printable, if you’re inclined to do the same…)
I then stuck a bookplate to the front, so you know exactly what’s inside in each envelope.
And held each set of four envelopes together with ribbon.
I’d love to say this was really quick to make, but actually the envelopes and all the finishing touches took a little while. But hey, the devil’s in the detail, right?
Of course, you’ll also need some glue (or double-sided sellotape) to put the bookplates inside the books once you want to use them.
Simple, inexpensive and sure to put a smile on the face of any booklover (especially my eight-year-old self)…
Yes, if you’ve checked in to these parts before, you’ll know I have a great love of projects that use vintage images. Here are a few more:
When I moved south of the river last September (I mention this move a lot, don’t I? I clearly haven’t quite come to terms with being a South Londoner yet), I was somewhat disappointed to discover that there was not a single second hand bookshop in walking distance from my house.
Yes, I have two amazing independent book shops, so I’m not really complaining, but what with the whole maternity leave, not-earning-any-money malarkey, I did miss the brilliant, cheap second hand bookshop on Stoke Newington Church Street.
So, you can but imagine my delight to discover a teeny, tiny second hand shelf in Rye Books. (Which is, itself, something of a tiny, but absolutely excellent bookshop.)
Whatever delight you originally imagined, now double it, nay treble it, nay multiply it by a hundred, because this was what I found on said shelf:
Knitting in Vogue, volume 2, from 1983. “Patterns from the ’20s to the ’80s for men and women.” And all fronted by what seems to be a dewy looking Andie MacDowell in a pastel pink number. Perhaps she knitted it herself?
Want to take a look inside? Of course you do…
The inside cover shows you how well-represented the 1980s are going to be, with this fetching pair in their fetching polo-necks:
In fact, every pattern has the original photo from the decade it was released, along with a re-shot 1980s photo where the knitting has been “brought right into the current era” (okay, despite the quotes, those are still my words, but I bet it’s what they said to each other as they were brainstorming the photoshoot…)
Needless to say, I prefer the original photos, especially those from the 1920s to 1940s. Especially those with dashing men riding bicycles in knitted wonders, looking catalogue-tastic.
The big delight of the book though, wasn’t just how wonderfully retro all the pictures are, but the fact that I actually want to make every single pattern. There’s not a dud in here. Say what you like about the ’80s, but they clearly knew how to pick out a good knitting pattern. Here are a few more that look outright amazing…
Knitting in vogue? I certainly think so.
But tell me, which of these patterns should I cast on first?
My Abel and Cole calendar* tells me it’s National Carrot Day today.
It would surely be a crime to let such a prestigious occasion pass uncelebrated…
I was just going to share a nice vintage carroty image with you in celebration of this momentous event, but on my search round my favourite vintage image sites I was completely inspired by a baby carrot bib and hat set, shared on one of the Graphics Fairy’s Brag Mondays.
Well, never one to resist an opportunity to get out my iron-on transfer paper and stick some images to fabric and since my baby has just started solids in the past few weeks, I completely stole the idea and made a carrot baby set of my own.
I whipped up four bibs laboriously drafted and sewed a single bib (and broke my sewing machine three times while doing so) and ironed the cute carrot pattern onto the front.
When I fix the sewing machine / find some new reserves of patience, I’ll finish the other three bibs and pdf the pattern I made to share it here. I just drew round one bib we had that fit and then cut the pieces out of terry towelling and an old white shirt, stitched together and turned inside out.
Getting a little carried away, I packed up the sewing machine and decided to emblazon a couple of (pre-owned) white baby-grows too, using carrot images from Clip art ETC: this horizontal carrot and these vertical carrots.
As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t normally advocate using images with blank space and fine lines, as the transfer paper where there’s no image can look quite shiny. However, since baby clothes mostly get covered in sick, food and dribble for a month at best before they’re too small, I wasn’t too fussed…
Non-UK based readers of my blog are probably filled with jealousy right now, but fret not! I did a little Googling just for you and discovered that it’s International Carrot Day on April 4th, 2013. I know! Which gives us two whole months to prepare some suitable carrot shenanigans. Suggestions below please…
*Yes, I am the sort of person who has an Abel & Cole calendar. What can I say? It was free with my weekly veg box, but I know that doesn’t really improve matters does it?