The Cinderella cupboard: part 2

Thank you so much to all of you who take the time and trouble to leave me comments, I do love reading them. This week a comment by Claire (of Handmade by ClaireBear) reminded me that I’d never revealed how my ‘Cinderella cupboard’ finally looked once I’d carefully sorted my fabric stash into colour order. The reason for this was mostly that the cupboard’s resting place in a very skinny corridor severely hampers my photographic efforts. So please forgive the odd angles and yellowy artificial lighting (I will master the ‘white balance’ on my camera one day) but here’s the finished thing.

Surprisingly, there’s still space for a few more stash additions and in places you can even see through to the back of the cupboard, which I covered in delicious bumble bee wallpaper scrounged from a generous assisstant in my favourite Farrow & Ball shop in Bath.

I can throughly recommend having a cabinet like this, the sight of all those lovely fabrics never fails to cheer me up every time I pass along the corridor. Until I suddenly discover that secret room in my little flat just waiting to be turned into a craft haven, this will do nicely.

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The indoor gardener

Bath City Council is silent and there’s been no response to my breathlessly enthusiastic emails. It’s more than two months since they let me know I was top of the allotment waiting list but have still sent no news of progress. So I’ve had to keep my green fingers indoors and satisfy my gardening urge by sorting out my window boxes. (I’ve shamefully neglected them this year as I kept holding out for my own patch of earth.)

Finding some affordable box balls – and a friend willing to help me carry them home – has spurred me on the get the window boxes looking good again.  A Saturday afternoon of potting up old plants and adding the new has done just that. As you know, all this activity takes place on the bathroom floor, which is just as well as it was raining hard yesterday. Reaching through the windows to bring in pots was my only risk of getting wet.

I have four big window ledges to enjoy. Each belongs to a different room, and without a conscious decision, I’ve formed a very different scheme for each. Let me take you on a tour:

The living room boasts The Formal Garden, a scheme of box balls in two different sizes. They stand like a row of soldiers in their zinc containers. Some deep purple salvias have joined in too but it’s still a pretty regimented arrangement. (Sadly the golden days of my topiary hare are long gone, it proved a little windy for him and he had to be retired to my mum’s garden.)

Things get more casual by the time you reach the bedroom window. This is my Cottage Garden. I have a protective outer ‘hedge’ of lavender which shelters an insane number of tiny specimens arranged in no order whatsoever, each earning its place by its ability to fit into a teeny space. There’s even a little garden sculpture tucked in here, a clay head with house leeks for hair. My baby oak tree lives here too.

And then there’s the bathroom, very possibly my favourite. I laughingly refer to it as ‘The Derek Jarman Tribute Garden’, as I’ve gone for a seaside feel with pink thrift and gravel and shells. Well, it makes me smile to have a little piece of Dungeness in the middle of Bath. (And the urban gulls do decorate it for me every so often to keep up the seaside feeling!)

The fourth window ledge belongs to the kitchen, it’s my nursery bed and retirement area for plants that have seen better days and need a rest. I dream of a luscious herb collection for me to lean out and snip with ease as I cook but I fear the lead content would be too high as I live next to a main road. (No picture of this, I’m sure you’ll understand.)

I won’t be appearing in the Yellow Book any time soon and I’m afraid I don’t have space to serve you a cream tea but thank you for coming on my mini garden tour. I’m off to empty the dust and compost out of my  vacuum cleaner – or is that the indoor gardener’s compost heap?

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Scratching the making itch

I’ve no doubt there’s a link between making and mental well-being. My very unscientific survey of one reveals how much calmer and more contented I am when I have time to spend making things. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been starved of crafting time and I’ve really noticed how unsettled it makes me feel not to have a moment to settle down and reach for something to make from the basket that sits by the side of my sofa.

So how to keep calm and carry on when no crafting time is available? Fabric stroking. A simple but possibly expensive solution. Without any particular project in mind, I bought this little roll of Liberty fabrics. (I absolutely love the way they don’t go together and yet somehow co-ordinate.) I put the roll somewhere obvious, like the arm of my sofa, and simply stroke the fabrics each time I pass. For the photo, I dared to unleash them from their paper band but of course I had to roll them up again carefully as that’s half the appeal. I’m just as bad with jelly rolls and charm packs, I simply can’t use them they are such lovely objects in their own right.

I hope for more crafting time soon but until then, I’ll have to select a new stroking collection to keep me happy for the week ahead. Feel free to join in my unscientific de-stressing solution.

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It’s all in the name

Rediscovering a treasured plate made me think about something else created by the same very talented friend. His passion is for ceramics, both in the study of styles from 1950s Midwinter to today’s Bridgewater and also creating original items with his own hands.

When he came to stay some years ago, I showed off by dressing my table with one of my best ever textile finds – my very own ‘Chez Jenny’ tablecloth. It’s quite small and perfect for my little drop-leaf dining table. The story goes that it came from a French restaurant that closed and sold off all its linens. I only wish I’d had the funds to buy up more of the napkins and tea towels at the textile event. Ah well, it probably would have been a bit much to have my name embroidered all over my home!

He won’t thank me for showing off some of his early work but I can’t resist this one. Ever the perfect guest, my friend entered into the spirit of things by posting this little jug to me a few days after his stay as a thank you gift. It features a simple heart design (just two brush strokes) and of course the essential ‘Chez Jenny’ lettering.

I’ve loved the way his work has developed over the years, so I’d like to share. Take a look at his very own Hogweed Pottery. I’m lucky enough to own some of these later models too.

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In praise of pink

I tend to forget all about pink. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that it often seems like too obvious a choice or just one with too much baggage. Girls are supposed to like it and so I over-think it and avoid it. Lately I’ve have had a couple of little reminders that have woken me up to the potential of pink all over again.

It’s peony season and I know for sure that these are my absolute favourite flower. Deep pink or the gentle pale variety, I don’t mind. I’ve been greedy and have two vases of them in my living room right now. The season is so short I have to get my fill.

Last week I sat in a friend’s stunning living room and started to think about what made it so lovely and inviting. The walls were papered in a bold Toile de jouy print (pink line illustrations on a rich cream) and the heart-stopping feature of the room was a French-style armoire. It had no doors just open shelves housing a gorgeous collection of lustreware plates and cake stands.

Apart from my peonies, I just wouldn’t think of pink for my living room. It seems like a dreamy bedroom kind of colour but I really want to rethink (not over-think) this having loved the atmosphere my friend has created. I’ve started small by rooting out an old treasure. This wonderful lustreware plate was made by another friend many years ago. It was actually featured in a magazine and I was thrilled when he let me be its custodian. Sadly it had sunk into a neglected spot at the back of a bookshelf but now I’m prompted to bring it out and find somewhere special for it to reside. I have high hopes for the power of pink.

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Chasing the blue

Farm animals are still a childhood essential, I’m very relieved to reveal.

I’ve gazed bemused at my nephew’s collection of trucks with sirens, talking pianos and trains that echo through tunnels and longed to see a wooden building block or a simple teddy in his collection. My childhood is rather more years ago than I care to admit but I hated to think that the joy I felt over a farmyard is something children no longer experience. I remember the duckpond made from a piece of mirror, little sections of plastic fence (that never wanted to stay standing, and dominoed as soon as the last bit was put in place with chubby, determined fingers) and then my favourite, the stable with its half doors opening the let a horse’s head peep out.

My nephew is now a little old for this. Ben is currently busy manning his own supermarket complete with digital cash register and scanner. He obviously has a future as a retail giant! Two of my friends’ little ones are around a year behind him and are both showing hopeful signs of enjoying some simple farmyard fun. As my modelling or woodworking skills are limited, it’s to my trusty fabric and threads I’ve turned to create something for one of them. I showed off a little rabbit from the set a while ago, and thankfully I’ve now found time to create its friends. They come from this Charlotte Lyon’s pattern, which I can thoroughly recommend.

I love Charlotte’s style. For me, she’s captured all the nostalgia of old-style farmyard animals. All mine were grouped as little families on ovals of green plastic grass. I recall a rather good sow and piglets and my treasured duck and ducklings all in a row. I had grand ideas about reversing the designs to make the little padded shapes double-sided but I fear they’d never be finished, so I intend to find some pretty prints to back each animal instead. I shall make an effort to be bold and colourful for maximum appeal.

I had hoped to be able to show off something a little more finished today but I thought I’d snap this picture before we lose the light on a dull day. I used a soluble embroidery pen for the first time (in place of my trusty pencil), which was lovely and clear to stitch over but it’s taken me ages to chase away all the excess blue lines with the special eraser end. I thought I’d managed it but I spotted still more as I pressed the shutter. I may have to call it a day and hope that sloppy embroidery won’t be high on the list of things a two-year-old will worry about.

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The nature table

I’ve always been a bit of collector. I like to return home with something to remind me of where I’ve been. It’s rarely anything very special, just something simple but lovely. I hardly dare admit to the glass jar of pebbles which adorns the hearth of my living room fireplace, lest the conservation police come after me. I know I shouldn’t really take pebbles and shells from their habitat but I don’t think I can stop it. I do find myself looking both ways in a rather shifty manner before I pocket a pebble.

You’ll be pleased to know that I draw the line at popping large cuttings into my handbag when visiting a lovely public garden, but if some seeds or a pine cone present themselves on the ground in front of me, I’m afraid they are meant to be mine. I go mad when it’s conker season. On an autumn walk last year my best friend threatened to disown me if I didn’t stop scrabbling around on the ground like an excited child. He also denied me the use of his pockets when I couldn’t hold any more conkers, which I found very unsporting.

And so it was when I visited Portmeirion in North Wales last year. I loved the woodland walks with bright leaves to collect and press and wandering the cliff paths down to the beach to collect a few shells. (I don’t feel like I’m properly established in a holiday cottage unless there are a few shells sat on the edge of the basic and sand around the plughole that doesn’t seem to rinse away.)

Then I stumbled on real treasure. Acorns. I’d never seen so many on the ground, especially acorns that were starting to sprout. Surely it couldn’t be wrong to wrap a few in a tissue and take them home when there were so many would-be oak trees just lying there? I kept them damp for the few days of my stay and lovingly potted them up when I got home. But their initial enthusiastic sprouting didn’t lead to anything more, despite attentive daily inspections while I wait for my portion of porridge to cook. (The potted acorns live in what I think of as my nursery garden on the ledge outside the kitchen window.) I considered this lack of activity a fair punishment for removing them from their native soil.

A week ago, the morning inspection revealed a small miracle. I tiny nub of fresh new green at the end of one acorn. Every day since there have been huge strides and yesterday my tiny little oak tree revealed it’s first identifiable leaves, perfect replicas of the distinctive full-size scalloped shape everyone recognises. (Interesting that trees don’t seem to sprout ‘seed leaves’ the way other plants do, they just skip straight to the real thing.)

I found my oak tree a larger pot and set him to grow next the horse chestnut tree I grew from a conker two years ago, to give him a bit of inspiration. I’m not quite sure what to do when my windowledge forest gets any larger but for now I shall enjoy observing their progress. I also like the thought that oak is a symbol of strength and promise. I shall take it as a sign.

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