Mollie Makes – bonus autumn project!

It was a real treat to open my copy of Mollie Makes this month. Knowing my work is featured inside is incredibly exciting as I don’t know in advance how it will be photographed or how the pages will look. I did actually squeak when I found that I had the treat of having my leafy project featured on the first page too! Please let me know if you make any Liberty leaves, I’d love to hear how you get on.

As promised, I’ve got a little extra project for you. Rather than a single leaf shape, I thought it would be fun to make a whole sprig. This means you can mix fabric scraps to put autumn shades together. Help yourself to this free project with all the instructions and templates you need.

Free leaf project

I like the Mollie Makes idea of the leaves as bookmarks. I always love it when I’ve forgotten a flower or leaf I’ve pressed and come across it ages later in the pages of an old book. I have a few of the fabric leaves amongst the acorns and conkers I have in my current nature table display.

I’ve been reading the absolutely delicious new book, ‘Vintage Fowers’ by florist Vic Brotherson. It’s one of the most inspiring books I’ve read in ages. I love the way she collects old vases and containers and lets them inspire what she puts in them. I particularly admire the way she slips a silk or even ceramic flower among the real blooms in some of her displays. It’s like a little secret once you spot them. I was wondering if I could use fabric leaves in the same way. Haven’t quite figured out what would happen when the wire stems get soggy but I’m sure I can think of something.

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Liberty leaves in Mollie Makes!

It’s not often I find a hedgehog making a nest in my handiwork. I was thrilled when Mollie Makes asked me to make a little selection of autumn leaves for their cover and even more excited when I was asked to use these delicious Liberty fabrics. Nesting in the leaves is a hedgehog with a rather unusual pedigree – he’s been created by Katie Shelton of Skunkboy Creatures fame. You can find out how to make the leaves and hedgehog for yourself in the new issue of Mollie Makes, which goes on sale this Friday.

The lovely Mollie team have made the cutest animation too. Take a look here to see my Liberty leaves tumbling in the wind as the hedgehog pops out of his hiding place.

The leaves are very easy to make and are a fun way to use up little scraps. I had some leftovers from the project so I’ve made a little bonus project you might like to try. Pop back this weekend and I’ll have an autumn project and templates ready for you.

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A celebration with an uninvited guest

It’s a whole year since I started my blog. By way of celebration I thought it better to treat myself to some flowers rather than yet another slice of cake. It’s dahlia time again, so I got myself out early to the local farmer’s market where they always have the biggest bunches and wildest colour combinations. The stems dripped on my feet as I hastened home to put them in my favourite big cream jug.

I seem to have become much greedier over the past year. Take a look at this picture and you’ll see what I mean. Not only have I now got an outrageous number of stems stuffed into my vase, I also have a second mini display sharing the same occasional table. I’ve turned poacher and have been sneaking around the abandoned allotment next to my plot, the lure of nasturtiums run riot proving too tempting for me.

Pleased with the blazing colours lighting up the corner of the living room, I took a quick snap. I try to be casual when I arrange things but can’t help a bit of tweaking. I couldn’t figure out why one nasturtium flower was proving so droopy. Turned out it was because it was supporting the wait of an invited guest; a teeny tiny snail. Not my first choice for a house guest so I gently escorted him off the premises but sent him home with a lettuce leaf party bag.

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The Simple Things

I have a little rule that I don’t talk about work here. After all, this is about the makes and musings that give the best after-hours escapes. I’m very lucky that my work as a craft journalist overlaps with the things I love but on the whole I aim to keep the day job and the fabric stash separate.

I feel strangely shy about this but yes, I am about to break my rule to tell you about something I’ve been working on. (I am allowing myself a little leeway as it has been taking up what would have been my crafting time.) It’s a brand new magazine, The Simple Things.

What’s it about? Well, basically my perfect day – and I very much hope yours too. Start with a treat of a breakfast recipe, a gossip with friends, a trip to a specialist shop to choose the perfect cheese, home to use it in a delicious lunch recipe (even I couldn’t mess up), a fun look at wonderfully ordinary things nature is up to this month, an afternoon walk collecting apples, a nose around an interesting house and a glimpse into what it’s like to go to a seed swap. As evening comes there’s a whimsical look back (at ‘ghost signs’ this issue), supper with friends, a chance to settle down and try some crochet and even a bedtime story to round off the day. Admittedly, I would be a fairly packed day but there’s a whole month to try all these things before the next magazine shows up on the shelves.

If you’d like to see for yourself, it’s in shops now or here if you prefer to shop online. (There’s a taster here too). I would genuinely like to hear what you think about it. Don’t hold back! Love it or hate it, I’d very much value your comments.

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The prince of raspberries

This little fella kindly shared his raspberry-blowing prowess at our family lunch yesterday. (It wasn’t him, it was the toy lion apparently.) Later the same afternoon my lovely nephew Ben had become an old hand with the real thing. I took him for his first trip to my allotment and tried to explain what would happen in ‘Auntie Jenny’s garden’. Clearly an overgrown patch is no bar to a three-year-old’s imagination but he wasn’t completely on board with the whole idea until I helped him pick a raspberry from the abandoned plot next to mine. The taste of the newly-picked fruit and the promise of more had him disappearing into the canes. Still, he says he’ll bring his spade next time he comes. Good man.

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A happy question

Why is it that you can live life with nothing much happening for weeks and weeks and then a splurge of good things come at one? This is certainly not a complaint. I was still basking in the reality of having my long-awaited allotment when along came another very exciting opportunity.

I’ve been asked to contribute a project to a book! It’s a sewing book but I’m not allowed to tell you any more – and it will be next spring before the results will be out there for all to see. For now I can only tease you with the materials shown above. Can you tell what it will be?

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A very lucky number

Is it weird that I’ve always had feelings about particular numbers? Some just seem friendlier than others. Perhaps it’s associations with family birthdays or old house numbers but I always know when a number feels good. I get a very warm and fuzzy feeling about this number. I could tell you it’s because it has a lucky digital route of 7, but then you’d really begin to worry about me. It would make much more sense to tell you that 124 is the plot number of my new allotment. In this case probably any number would have felt good as you know my sad tales of gardening on the bathroom floor.

On Tuesday this week I visited the local council offices to confirm that this is my little patch of earth. Actually the first that’s ever been mine, unless you count the little bed behind an apple tree when I was about six years old. A stylish little area, home to sunflowers and my design triumph of an upturned section of a drain which served as a raised bed, ideal  for trailing plants. My Dad was always fond of gardening, though a Sunday afternoon often meant the bold approach of cutting a new 1970s-style curvy rose bed in preference to doing anything very earnest like weeding. I was daddy’s little helper. I still can’t smell tomatoes without picturing a hot summer with a greenhouse filled with such a glut that we let our guinea pigs feast on the ripest fruits.

So what can I tell you about plot 124? As you can see, it hasn’t been cultivated for some time and all the rainy days have produced what’s best described as a jungle of weeds. On my first evening of tenancy I was so excited to visit my plot that I ran up to the site straight from work, so my dress and ‘lady’ shoes weren’t quite the right attire. It was so overgrown that I could only stalk the perimeter  of 125m square of chest-high weeds, pondering what might be within. I just stood and looked at it with a silly smile on my face for quite some time.

The next evening I was better prepared. I strode forth purposefully in jeans and wellies and prepared to enter. I had to be quite careful, placing each foot down gingerly to discover what might be under the weeds. After a while I’d stumbled (literally) over a small tool store, a compost container, a bottle of slug pellets and several wild raspberry canes (thankfully thornless). Several other lot holders passed by during my expedition into the unknown, uttering helpful phrases like “you’ve got a bit of a project there”, and “if you find treasure buried in there, it’s mine!”. They’re a great bunch of people. Already I’ve been loaned tools, given heaps of advice and even presented with a bunch of the most beautifully scented sweet peas and honeysuckle.

As a new tenant, I get a helping hand to start me off. The council take an industrial strimmer to the plot. I was lucky enough to get this done last Friday, which meant I could spend all Saturday playing. It took just over four hours to clear two square metres properly – only 123 square metres to go. It’s no coincidence that the first thing I did when I woke up this morning was google ‘rotavator hire’. I had hoped to be heroic and enjoy the process of hand digging the whole plot but I fear the weeds may be back in force before I can achieve anything meaningful.

I don’t really mind how long it takes to sort things out, it’s my little(!) patch of escapist heaven and I shall fall asleep dreaming of sheds and raised beds for many weeks to come.

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