handmade

Cushion cover tutorial on Bibelot Magazine

Fancy having a go at making a super simple cushion cover? Well head on over to the Bibelot Magazine blog to find my easy sew tutorial - absolutely no zips required! I do warn you, though, that it gets rather addictive - before you know it, your house will be stuffed full of cushions and beautiful fabric ;)

While you're there, do have a good browse around - there are lots of interesting reviews, how to's, interviews and bits and bobs to get you thinking. Bibelot is described as follows:

Bibelot, “The Little Book of Creative Curiosities”, will be a quarterly craft, design and lifestyle magazine celebrating the hand-made, the ethical, and the unique. Bibelot is about more than craft projects; it represents an imaginative and sustainable way of life. Readers will feel stimulated, uplifted and motivated. Bibelot will begin its life as a blog, an online hub bringing artistic, original and innovative people together. It’s a space for sharing ideas, learning and sparking inspiration!

What I've been making lately - bumper catch-up!

Goodness, I've just realised that it's been a month since I last blogged - where has the time gone?!! We've been away to Cornwall for a week (photos coming soon - why oh why do I take so many.....) and I've been busy making things - quite a lot of things actually. I hadn't realised quite how much until I started putting this post together. I've definitely caught the sewing bug - making things yourself is just so satisfying! It's also the perfect way for me to indulge my love of fabric and vintage prints without feeling quite so guilty about stockpiling them ;)

So, what have I been making?

Well, lots of purses, glasses cases and pencil cases. I adapted my cosmetic bag pattern to make all of these. The glasses case and pencil case have some soft wadding inbetween the fabric to protect their contents. I love how light the glasses case is - perfect for carrying around without even noticing :)

There have also been some tote bags. I absolutely love this pattern - it's such a great way to use and display vintage fabric. And it's the perfect size for carrying around Blythes! I've actually used my tote bags quite a bit - in fact, I'm itching to make more! I think I might try adding a contrasting pocket to the front (and maybe the inside) next time.

I also made this little set for my mother-in-law in a gorgeous contemporary Amy Butler fabric for mother's day - it seemed perfect for spring! I absolutely love choosing a complementary fabric for the lining too - these little green eggs felt like a perfect match.

I wanted to use up some of the smaller bits and pieces of fabric I had, and some pretty scraps, so decided to make a batch of lavender bags. I'd taken some away with me when we went on holiday as our travel bags smelt musty from being in the attic and I popped them in our drawers. They gave me so much pleasure, I resolved to make a batch for our drawers when I got home. I love how they look altogether :)

And last, but by no means least, is a little collection I made from an absolutely stunning Echino fabric by Etsuko Furuya. I'm a huge fan of Echino fabric, and completely fell in love with this stag fabric. It took a fair bit of hunting down on the internet to find a supplier - this lot came from

modes4u.com

in Hong Kong. I made the little black and white collection as a birthday present for my husband (the most manly fabric I had!!).

And I just adore the combination of the pink polka dots with the aqua (another Echino fabric) - the cushion covers were the first thing I made. The fabric is a linen and cotton blend and is pretty heavyweight - perfect for cushions and cases :) Although I have to say the black one is now completely covered in grey cat hair - Poppy is particularly fond of it!

So there you go - I'll try not to leave it so long next time!!!

A little bit obsessed by crocheted blankets

I guess my obsession with crocheted blankets will not come as a surprise to many of you ;) Those of you who follow along on Instagram will see them pretty regularly - you can't go far in my home without bumping into one! I think it's that magic combination of colour, pattern and texture that does it for me :)

So today I thought I'd share some of my collection with you. It's been a gorgeous sunny day here in blighty so it was the perfect day for a spot of photography :)

First up is my "happy blanket" which is home to my happy, sunshiney Little Tea Wagon owls - the perfect combination don't you think? The blanket was a charity shop find when out thrifting with my sister in Barnstaple - and I may have let out a squeal :)

The other super colourful blanket was found at the Oxford vintage market which is held every Thursday in Gloucester Green. In the summer it hangs at the end of my bed to provide a lovely pop of colour (sausage dog is made by Alice Apple).

Of course, crochet isn't just for blankets and I was rather pleased with this find at Spitalfields market in London. I love the lining too :)

I just adore this huge granny blanket I bought for our bed. It is just so warm and cosy in winter - I never want to get up in the mornings! This one came from a lovely shop called Winifred's Daughter in Hawkhurst, Kent. The blankets are made locally by a lady in the village and are just beautiful. I have another one for the sofa, too.

The next few blankets are all thrifted. The first one has clearly enjoyed some happy times in its life and has that lived in vibe - but it's perfect for summer picnics on the lawn (oh how I wish....).

And last, but most definitely not least, we come to the living room, which is home to four lovely blankets - they make it such a happy, cosy space.

The arm chair has seen better days and really needs reupholstering - but a crochet blanket and a cluster of cushions brighten it up for now (the fabulous two cushions at the front were made by Modflowers, the rest I made). It's one of those fabulous roomy chairs that you can sit cross legged in and is perfect for reading.

We've also used blankets to cover up some now rather grotty Ikea foot stools - pretty and comfy. They do get a bit of a beating - but I'm a firm believer in using things you love, rather than having them tucked away keeping perfect. You get so much more enjoyment that way.

So there you have it. A little bit obsessed! Have a lovely week everyone. xxx

A handmade Christmas

This year it's been a rather handmade Christmas. With me not working at the moment we are rather counting the pennies, so handmade made sense financially. But I have to say it's been an absolute joy to have the time to be able to make presents. And having recently completed my beginner's sewing course, what better opportunity to practice?!

I absolutely loved making these presents - from choosing the fabric to cutting to sewing and stuffing - it's been so much fun. And now the presents have been opened, I can safely share some pictures with you :)

First up is a cosmetic bag I learnt to make on my sewing course - I really loved the pattern and thought it made a lovely and very useful gift. I chose the gorgeous kitsch kitties fabric by Michael Miller for this one, as I knew the recipient had a soft spot for this print. And I must confess I loved it so much I had to make one for myself too - but with a different coloured zip for a bit of variety. I chose an aqua polka dot fabric for the lining, as I thought it complemented the colour scheme well. And I had lots of fun making some custom gift tags for the (vaguely) professional touch!

The cosmetic bag seemed like such a good idea, I made more in different fabrics. I knew my sister loved the Tammis Dogs fabric made by Michael Miller (a Tammis Keefe tribute fabric) and I stayed with the same lining fabric I used in my course, as I knew this partnered well. I also fancied making some lavender bags, as I think these are great to pop in your sock drawer or wardrobe - or just to have hanging around looking pretty. So I made a very simple template and got cutting and stitching!

Then, more of the same, but in some different fabrics that I thought the recipients would like. I was very pleased with this pairing of a black and white floral print and polka dots - and the pop of colour provided by a hot pink zip.

I was also very pleased to find a pack of ribbon I had bought from Paperchase a while ago knowing it would come in useful someday. It was perfect for the hanging loops - and I had a lovely choice of colours.

They are definitely not perfect, but I was pleased with them all the same - and I think the recipients were too, which is what matters. I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and are enjoying some R&R. TTFN, Z xx

Crafty bloggers' evening at Cath Kidston, Oxford

So what do you get when you mix a bunch of Oxford bloggers, the Cath Kidston store in Oxford, mulled wine, delicious noms, and some Xmas crafting activities? A whole lot of fun, lots of chatter, much distraction, photo taking and shopping!

I had a really fun evening with NatashaVickiCathrynCatherineDina, and Rosalind. The lovely people at CK had laid on a marvellous feast and prepared some very pretty crafting tables, ready for us to make our own Christmas decorations from a kit.

Bloggers' crafty evening at Cath Kidston, Oxford
Bloggers' crafty evening at Cath Kidston, Oxford
Bloggers' crafty evening at Cath Kidston, Oxford
Bloggers' crafty evening at Cath Kidston, Oxford

We started very enthusiastically, but it wasn't long before the temptations of an empty Cath Kidston store lured us away from crafting.... It was all looking so pretty and so Christmassy.....

Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford

I just adore the wallpaper that runs up the staircase - I'd love a feature wall in this....

Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford

I completely fell in love with the mushroom print and came away with some fabric (I'm thinking tote bag, with a red polka dot lining to start with...), a mug and a plate :) And those pastel spoons looked so good with it, so they came along too...

I think I went a bit mushroom crazy - LOVE this print!
I think I went a bit mushroom crazy - LOVE this print!

As we were leaving, the very lovely people at Cath Kidston pressed a goody bag into our hands. This was inside...

Our goody bag
Our goody bag

As I was rather too distracted to finish the task at hand during the evening (I blame the mulled wine and fabulous company!), I finished sewing my santa back at home and he now has pride of place hanging on the fireplace :)

Cath Kidston Xmas decoration I made

Thanks so much to Charlotte for arranging the evening and to everyone at Cath Kidston for looking after us so well - it was lots of fun.

It's a big day for Cath Kidston today, as the new flagship store in Picadilly has just opened (the largest in the world!). Definitely on my must visit list the next time I'm in London. And watch out for those Cath Kidston taxis!!

My new best friend

I've wanted to learn to sew for ages. About 5 years ago I bought a tiny John Lewis sewing machine. It was red and looked very pretty. But I didn't know how to use it so it stayed in its box. For years. Much time passed and I went on a "make friends with your sewing machine course" which was good, but I never seemed to have the time to practice (photography was always so much easier...) and I didn't know where to start really with following a pattern, etc. So more time passed and my little red machine stayed in its box.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I had the pleasure to attend an intensive sewing course for beginners with Louise Paeman. It took place over two Saturdays and as well as covering how to use your sewing machine, we actually made some things, learning how best to place our patterns on our fabrics, how to cut out, how to follow a pattern, how to sew in a zip, and lots of useful tips and tricks. I absolutely loved it and can highly recommend Louise's courses if you are in the Oxford area.

Just as I was about to get stuck into the first bit of real sewing at the end of our first day, my little red machine decided to die. Louise kindly lent me her machine and my goodness, it was a dream! Chalk and cheese! So to cut a long story short, I decided on a beautiful new Janome sewing machine for my 40th birthday present. I love it! It's my new best friend. And at the moment, I am particularly relishing the speed control - as you can see I have it set to tortoise speed :)

The first thing we made was a reversible tote bag. I chose some beautiful vintage fabrics - the large print is Roundelay by Jonelle (not sure who made the lining fabric).

Tote bag I made
Tote bag I made
Tote bag I made

Our second make was a cosmetic bag. I decided to use a different fabric again for the lining, which made it more complicated, but I love the contrast. We used iron on interfacing to give the bag some support so it would stand up OK. And we gave it a flat bottom - and a zip! Not bad for the second thing I've ever sewn on a machine!

Cosmetic bag I made
Cosmetic bag I made

I found the fabric when I was on holiday in the USA, in a tiny store on Mount Desert Island in Maine. It is a Tammis Keefe Tribute by Michael Miller Fabrics called Tammis Dogs.

You can read more about Tammis Keefe in this great Tribute post on the Making it Fun blog

- I adore her designs. I wish I'd bought more, now...

Cosmetic bag I made
Cosmetic bag I made

I'm rather pleased with my makes. There are some wonky bits, but you don't really notice them. And I'm going to make more - this machine is not going to hide in a box!

The times they are a changin'

Change is most definitely in the air. As we drift into October the leaves are starting to turn and fall, the nights are drawing in and there is a definite chill in the air in the mornings and evenings - I love this time of year!

Soft landing
Autumn pinks

And for me this year, things are changing in a big way. I've just left my job of 9+ years as the Head of the Systems & Information Management team in Research Services at the University of Oxford. It's been a wonderful place to work and I've been privileged to work with many fantastic people that I respect and admire. But I've been battling with chronic fatigue for the last few years and am thoroughly fed up with feeling achey and exhausted all the time and barely able to drag myself through the working week....

So I decided I needed a big change and a chance to rest and recuperate and focus on my health. I'm taking a career break for 6 months or so to give myself the time I need to recover. And a chance to think about what's next. I'd love to do something creative, ideally with my photography....perhaps some freelance work - who knows - the possibilities at this blissful stage are endless :)

If you go down to the woods today….
Every shade of autumn in one tree

I'm planning to spend my time doing lots of lovely creative, crafty things. I want to learn to knit and sew properly, and hopefully crochet too. I am so looking forward to being able to potter about at my own pace, instead of rushing from meeting to meeting....

I have been slowly amassing a little stash of vintage fabrics and I am so looking forward to getting stuck in and making things....I have booked myself into a sewing course for November and will be making a tote bag and a make-up bag as part of the course...and then I hope to get to work on some cushion covers...and maybe an owl if I'm feeling adventurous.

My vintage fabric stash
Destined to be some Blythe scarves and maybe some hats...

I will be able to surround myself with beautiful happy colours in my home. My owl shelf of happiness makes me smile every time I walk into my bedroom. It's had a very special recent addition - the new owl on the far right was custom made for me by the wonderful Modflowers in a pink and aqua colourway, especially to co-ordinate with my owl shelf :)

I'm over the moon with him - isn't he gorgeous? You can read about the making of him on Modflower's lovely blog.

My owl shelf of happiness
My fabulous owl from @modflowers

I'm also really looking forward to doing some more Blythe customisation and photography. I've got lots more faces to matte....These shelves of colour in my craft room just make me smile, even on gloomy days...

My happy shelf #1
Work in progress….
Zahra approves of the new chair

I'm planning to do lots more photography too - I've got lots of ideas for a new line in greeting cards and small prints....I've been hunting out bambis like my avatar over the last few months and will finally have the time to photograph them :)

Vintage teal & yellow: a delicious combo
Finally managed to find a bambi like my avatar :)
Bambis are multiplying!

So, exciting times ahead! But first, I'm off on a special trip to the USA, including a visit to Blythecon New York to celebrate my (gulp) 40th birthday later this month! So my blog will be quiet for a little while. But no doubt I will be posting like a mad woman on Instagram, so you can follow along with me there :) Tara for now! Z xx

Sunny Artweeks Sunday

A gorgeous day with friends pottering around the countryside looking at vintage prettiness and art - what could be nicer?

Found and Sewn's beautiful Artweeks show

The day started with a browse around Station Mill Antiques Centre in Chipping Norton, before lunch and a potter around the vintage china at the Applestore in Batsford Arboretum. I had a jolly good rummage through the pick n' mix china and came away with this beautifully mis-matching selection :)

My vintage pick n mix

We then moved on to the beautiful village of Chadlington for the highlight of the day: the Artweeks show by the very lovely and talented Found and Sewn. Vicki designs and makes beautiful vintage textiles and collages. Her show is set-up in an oh so pretty summerhouse and tea and cake is served outside in the garden in a lovely selection of vintage china. You *must* go if you get a chance - the exhibition is on until 27 May.

Found and Sewn's beautiful Artweeks show
Found and Sewn's beautiful Artweeks show
Found and Sewn's beautiful Artweeks show
Found and Sewn's beautiful Artweeks show
Found and Sewn's beautiful Artweeks show
Found and Sewn's beautiful Artweeks show
Found and Sewn's beautiful Artweeks show
Found and Sewn's beautiful Artweeks show
Vintage teapot
Found and Sewn's beautiful Artweeks show
Bluebells

We then had a lovely meander through the countryside in the sunshine taking in some more lovely Artweeks shows along the way and enjoying all the pretty gardens. A thoroughly lovely way to spend a Sunday!

Summer pinks
Wild flowers
Apple blossom

Crocheted blanket love

Well, Happy New Year folks!

I thought I would start the new year by sharing about a recent new obsession of mine: crocheted blankets! We regularly make the trip to a small village called Hawkhurst in Cranbrook, Kent to visit my Grandmother-in-law. Imagine my surprise to stumble upon an amazing little shop called Winifred's Daughter selling handmade and vintage loveliness! Every time I visited, though, this sweet little shop was closed. I tried again on Christmas Eve, and this time rang the mobile number posted on the door and the lovely owner popped down and opened up!

She had the most amazing selection of crocheted blankets in 3 sizes, that were made locally by a lady in the village (I'd been eyeing these up for several months!). Plus an amazing collection of other handmade items such as the fox and the owl on the sofa below made by a Danish designer, cushion covers in vintage fabrics, and an amazing hand-picked selection of vintage ornaments, pictures, kitchenware....Suffice to say I did not leave empty handed!!!

Below are a few photos of the two blankets that came home with me (one perfect for our bed, the other perfect for the sofa) and of course Mr. Fox and Mrs. Owl perched on the sofa :)

Bedroom
Bedroom
The sofa's had a makeover :)

Handmade love

I get so much pleasure from the fabulous handmade treasures I've found on Etsy, that I thought it would be nice to share them. Here are some of the favourites I've amassed over the last year or so. They live on various happy shelves around my house and make me smile whenever I walk past :) One of my ambitions for 2013 is to learn how to make things like this myself.....

So a huge thank you to all the talented people below and across the handmade community for all the smiles and inspiration!

Jane Foster softies

Above: Jane Foster softies

Mini Dachshunds by aliceapple

Above: Mini Dachshunds by aliceapple

Handmade bunny by Dancingintherains

Above: Handmade bunny by Dancingintherains

Clive the owl by Zeena Shah

Above: Clive the owl by Zeena Shah

Lavender filled owls and bunny from Pouch

Above: Lavender filled owls and bunny from Pouch.

Sleepy owl by Little Tea Wagon

Above: Sleepy owl by Little Tea Wagon