Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Ice Cream Coloured Night Shirts

Two soft and pretty nightshirts for my sister.

It will be my sister's birthday on Saturday.  A while ago she asked me to make her some nightshirts that would not irritate her skin.  I had an unsuccessful attempt when I tried to adapt a pattern.  I took it to the States to show her and it was gigantic and completely the wrong shape.  I just had to scrap the material and try again.  This time I chose ice cream colours, soft and pretty for bedtime.  To ensure that the seams do not rub, I used my 'even feed' foot, so that I did not have to worry about the top fabric pushing and I also did not have to use a zig zag stitch on the seams. This can look bulky and peculiar.  I just used a medium sized straight stitch and top stitched the sleeve seams.  Because they are dropped sleeves, this was easy as it is almost a straight line. I used a zig zag stitch to finish off the raw edges as that seemed a better option than turning them under and edge stitching.  Funnily enough, a piece of pink cotton print fell out of my sewing box when I was getting ready to sew and it completely matched the fabric, so I appliquéd a heart onto the left side. I think the result is quite pleasing and I hope she likes it. Unfortunately, I could not find a piece of yellow in my stash to match the yellow nightshirt, so that one went unadorned. When I have some time, I may even make one for myself. 
The fabric is from Tia Knight, Inspired Fabrics.  You can find her on: http:/

The pink nightshirt with a heart-shaped appliqué.

 Here is the pattern I used for the second (and successful) attempt.  I cut out the tunic, adding 4 inches to the length and stitched up the slits.  They are nice and long and cosy, but not too long to trip over. Butterick patterns are, on the whole, quick and easy to use and I like them for things like this.  I am really a Vogue pattern fan, but they can be complicated and unnecessarily tricky for things like nightwear.

A simple and easy to use pattern which I will definitely use again.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Watercress and Spinach - The Monday Soup

 Watercress and spinach are a very good source of vitamins A,B,C and D.  During the winter we need them more than ever and this soup just fills the bill.  If you hate spinach, you can leave it out and you will still have a good, tasty soup.  At the moment, many supermarkets are selling watercress and baby leaf spinach in one package, which would be perfect for this recipe.  It's quick, easy and warming and another vegetarian option.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
1 small leek (optional)
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 large or two med potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 small package watercress
2 handfuls of spinach
1 stock cube
Salt and pepper
A dash of nutmeg (optional)
Creme fraiche

In a large saucepan, heat the oil and sweat the onion, leek and celery with the lid on. (5 minutes).
Add the potato, watercress, stock cube and enough water to cover the vegetables.
Season with salt and pepper and nutmeg, if desired.
Bring to a boil and turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Use a mouli or a potato masher to puree the vegetables.
Toss in the spinach and bring back to heat.
Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche in each bowl.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Happy Birthday to My Blog

Original Drawing by Sue West

It is one year since I started this blog.  It's been a wonderful experience and an uphill learning curve.  The wonderful experience comes from making a lot of virtual friends and a few real ones, learning about their interests and discovering new ideas.  The learning curve has come from the frustrations of getting the posts to look as I envisage them and to make the photos stay where I put them! (Not to mention, trying to develop skill as a photographer.) Below is a reposting of my very first blog.  It explains why I started this and why I persevere.  Thank you to everyone who has a look this.

I love fabrics. I have always loved fabrics.  If there were a heaven, it would be a large space filled with fabrics, something like The Cotton House in Berwick Street in London, or Boroviks, stuffed with beautiful things and where the fashion students and costume designers go. Or Liberty’s in its hey day, when fabrics occupied a whole floor, exotic silks and satins and tiny Tana lawn prints.  Or Hudsons in downtown Detroit in the 1950’s, where my mother used to take me and I once got separated from her among the tall fabric bales, taller than I was. In this heaven, I could browse forever, breathing in the smell of fabrics, touching them, imagining what I could make with them. 

 Like my mother’s closets, my house is overflowing with fabrics.  A few years ago, a friend turned an old pine wardrobe into a fabric cupboard for me by adding shelves.  My daughter and I covered them with Cath Kidson wallpaper, then stacked my fabrics according to colour and type.  I bought pretty tins for buttons, zips, trims and threads.  It looks lovely.  Of course it is not big enough to contain all my fabrics. They lurk in the loft, in black bin bags, blue Ikea bags, re-usable supermarket bags. Current sewing projects are in plastic boxes under the bed in the spare room.  They ooze and creep into other places, on chairs, beds, tables.

If there were a fire, I would not try to save my fabrics.  I would save my family.  But I would mourn the loss of my fabrics.  It would take some time to get over it. Eventually, I would try to put a positive spin on it.  I would see it as an opportunity to buy more fabrics, but I would mourn the old ones because I know where I acquired each one of them.   They all have memories and associations.

A few weeks ago, I visited Berwick Street in London and to my delight I noticed that many new fabric shops have opened.  People are beginning to see the advantages of the old home crafts during this time of ‘economic gloom’.  It’s something to make the heart glad.  Newspapers and fashion magazines make reference to ‘make do and mend’ and ‘make your own individual dress, headscarf, belt, bag…”  New sewing and crafting magazines are being published too.

All of these things have inspired me to create this blog, to exchange ideas with others who also love making things.  Most of my ideas are not original. I take them from magazines, shops, friends and galleries.  Still, I would like to share some of them with you.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

A Cheerful Trio for the Kitchen

 The three objects in the photo are a tea cosy, a cosy for a cafetierre and a bag for bags.  I had this cheerful yellow fabric for years before making it up.  Originally, it was for an apron.  However, I saw a bag holder in a magazine and realised it was a perfect solution to the plastic bag problem. (I used to just stuff them under the stairs.)
Even though these days we do not have as many plastic bags as we used to, we still have some.  They are useful for lining bins and I like to separate meat, bleach and dairy products from my other shopping. I don't want lingering smells in my cloth bags.
The tea and coffee cosies are lined with wadding and some white fabric.  They keep the pots lovely and warm and ready for a second cup.
The bag of bags hangs on the back of the kitchen door and we just stuff plastic bags in whenever we have them.  It is simply a long tube, hemmed at the top and with a handle.  It has a casing at the bottom edge and elastic threaded through it.  This keeps the bags in place and and allows easy access to them.

The top of the bag has a handle for  hanging. 

You just stuff bags in the top and pull them out at the bottom.

The bottom of the bag is elasticated.
Bags stay in but are easy to pull out when needed.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Vegetarian Corn Chowder, The Monday Soup

 This is a great option for Vegetarians.  It is very tasty and does not need the usual addition of bacon. I started making it years ago when we had two vegetarians living at home.  It suited everyone and no one missed the meat.  I still make it this way and we still love it.
Most of my soup bases contain a leek as it melts down during cooking and imparts a lovely flavour
The soup is cooked and then a white sauce is added to make it thick.  If you don't want to do this, add a little more water to the vegetables and put a little creme fraiche in each bowl when you serve it.


1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 knob of butter (walnut size)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped (optional)
1-2 sticks of celery, chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
a sprig of fresh thyme of a pinch of dried thyme
vegetable stock cube

1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon flour
Salt and Pepper
1 cup milk
1 small tin of sweetcorn, drained


  • Heat the oil and knob of butter in a saucepan and sweat the onion, celery and leek for 5 minutes.
  • Add the potatoes, stock cube, herbs salt and pepper and enough water to cover the vegetables. 
  • Bring to boil, turn the heat down and cook for 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft but not mushy.
  • In another pan, melt the tablespoon of butter, and make a roux with the flour.  Do not let it burn. 
  • Add the cold milk and stir with a whisk until it begins to boil and gets thick. You now have a white sauce.
  • Ladle a bit of the hot soup into the white sauce and then add the sauce to the soup.
  • Put in the corn and cook until just heated.
  • Garnish with chives or parsley if you wish.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

A New Quilt

Draft One of the Quilt.  I don't like the very light stripe. 

The colours seem unbalanced.

This strip quilt is made from a Liberty bundle.  A rush of blood to the head made me buy it. That can happen in Liberty's. I saw a beautiful quilt made up and that was it.  However, I am not yet happy with the arrangement of fabrics and there will be more drafts before it is finished.  The light stripe to the left of the centre looks washed out and seems to shout, 'Here I am'.  I also think there is too much concentration of yellow on the right side and not enough balance of colour and tone.  Call me Mrs Fussy.

One more thing.  If you should succumb to a Liberty bundle, know that the strips need trimming. They are not straight and ready to sew.  I found this out the hard way when I put the first two strips together.  There was a definite bulge, so I took that seam out and measured and straightened all the strips before beginning again.

Below is draft two. On the advice one of my clever artistic friends, I trimmed the width of the  offending strip and moved it to the right.  It was then a matter of turning around a couple of pairs of strips to get a much more balanced arrangement. I wish I had a design board.  Must make one.  There is almost no place in this house to hang anything up for photographing.  (Too much stuff!) Must do something about that.

Draft Two of the Quilt.  

Taking advice from a friend, I side a bit of re-arranging.

I found a beautiful piece of Liberty lawn for the backing at Calico, 3 Ram Passage in Kingston-upon Thames. They have a large selection of Liberty prints and they were willing to take endless time with me until we found the perfect one. If you are a sewer and you live near Kingston, do pay them a visit.  If you don't live nearby, they have a website: and an email address:

The backing fabric is a very subtle Liberty Lawn.

Now all I need is the wadding and I can continue.  That won't be soon as it is snowing in London again and looks like continuing through the week.  I am not willing to take the car out in this weather. Instead, I am off to work on the kimono.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Crafty Books, Happy Reading and Making

Cath Kidston.  All about needlepoint and cross stitch.

Craft books are among my favourites. Like cookbooks, I love to read them and dream about what I might do next. I was lucky enough to get some for Christmas.
This first lot from a friend is a set  of books by Cath Kidston.  Each book is about a different technique and there is an added bonus of a bag, cut out and ready to make.  I want to try them all RIGHT NOW.

A needlepoint project which would be quite useful as I lose glasses cases regularly.
Hopefully, I would hang on to this one.

Now we're talking.  How to use up some of my surplus fabrics.

A bag that would be fun to make.  

This combines two of my favourites: patchwork and bag making.

All sorts of easy sewing projects.

An beautiful, quilted hot water bottle cover.  Perfect for the current weather.

An added bonus.
A kit for a bag, cut out and including haberdashery.

'Chic on a Shoestring' by Mary Jane Baxter.  Perfect for hoarders and 'Make Do and Mend'. It is full of ideas to embellish your wardrobe, including bags, belts, jewellery and hats. Lots of fun to be had here.

A gift from my daughter who knows how much I love this sort of thing.

Inspired by paste jewellery of the 1950's,
this stunning necklace is made of  stones, sequins and old jewellery bits.

'Cabbages and Roses, Home-Made Vintage' by Christina Strutt with photographs by Lucinda Symons is a perfect example of what an ideal blog would look like. This book is full of ideas for the home.  Gorgeous fabrics and beautiful projects for room dressing and gift giving.

Lovely cover.

I am not a toy maker, but I could succumb to this one.

Ordinary, household things look beautiful in this book.

Finally, 'Homemade Gifts Vintage Style' by Sarah Moore, who is currently featured in 'Country Living' Magazine, where she has been showing how to make beautiful things. I have been following her series avidly as I am lucky enough to have a subscription to the magazine. The book includes cushions to corsages and Valentines projects to Christmas decorations.

Another captivating cover

Who wouldn't want a Linen Cupboard that looks like this.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

A Kimono for My Friend

This pattern should make it quick and easy.

 I need to get started on this - soon. A friend's birthday is coming up and a long time ago I promised to make her a kimono. As you can see, the pattern is for a costume, but it looks quite traditional and I think it will be lovely when finished.

Before I embarked on this project, I searched online for ideas and patterns for kimonos. I decided to go with the commercial pattern because I just want to get on with it and know it will fit.   I didn't want any hiccups.  It's so much easier just to cut and sew something that has been measured accurately and tested before being put on the market. Sometime in the future, I may try the other way for me.  I can fuss around with it until it is right.

There is a delightful site at  I found it by googling along with many others, some including directions and patterns for making a traditional kimono.

My friend loves bright colours. This kimono will be used as a dressing gown, so the cotton fabric will be perfect as it is practical and washable. I tried to find traditional Japanese kimono fabrics on line, but did not have much success.  If anyone knows of a source, please tell me.

This is the fabric I will be using.
The colours are beautiful and it is washable.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Hearty, Warming Lentil Soup

Lentil soup, a good winter warmer

Brr... It's cold in Britain.  Good weather for making soups. On the day we arrived back from France I had to be 'creative' about lunch.  I found a 2" piece of chorizo in the freezer and proceeded to make this soup.  Thankfully, everything else I needed was in the fridge or the store cupboard.
I have had this recipe since the 70s, written on a file card, so I have no idea where it came from. and I hadn't made it for years, but  I remembered it after making split pea soup.
Because the lentils do not need soaking, this soup is relatively quick and easy. You just need to be sure to cook them long enough  (45 minutes after they have come to the boil). The recipe calls for bacon, but you could use lardons, pancetta, or try chorizo. The chorizo gave the soup a little zing, but it was not overpowering and I would definitely use it again. For a vegetarian option, you could  use a vegetarian stock cube and a little celery for added flavour, then top the soup with cheesy, toasted bread or croutons. Obviously, if you have home made stock, use that instead of the stock cube.

2 Tablespoons olive oil
A few pieces of bacon, lardons, pancetta or a small amount of chorizo
1 small onion
6 oz dried red lentils (Check the package to ensure that they don't need soaking.)

2 pints of water
1 beef stock cube
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, scraped and chopped
A dollop of creme fraiche for each serving.

Heat a saucepan and add the olive oil.
Cook the meat gently for a few minutes.
Add the chopped onion and cook for about 5 minutes until the onion is soft.
Add the water, stock cube and lentils.
Bring to boil and simmer for 45 minutes. (Do not undercook the lentils.)
Add the potatoes and carrot  and cook another 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
Blend the mixture or use a potato masher to break up the large chunks.
Serve with a spoonful of creme fraiche.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Winter Floral Arrangements

 When we arrive in Brittany, no matter what time of year, my clever friend (who also designed the drawing for my masthead) gets the house ready and fills it with floral arrangements from her own wonderful garden.
I think each time she out does herself and this time was no exception. She managed to find a few flowering plants and to frost the leaves and berries of others.
Check out her website at where she sells jewellery and other things.

A close up of the frosted berries

The subtle colours of hydrangeas in winter.

More glorious flowers and berries.

Friday, 11 January 2013

A Belated Happy New Year

Early morning view from my window in Brittany.

Happy New Year.  I have been quiet so long because we were away where there is no convenient internet connection. We celebrated the New Year in Brittany once again.  Some of the the things I love about winter in Brittany are the quiet and solitude; the comforts of our home there and the wonderful, stark scenery of the countryside. Here are some photos that say more than I can:

The stands of bare trees and the huge skies

The old stone buildings with slate roofs.

The architecture of the trees.

The twisted beams in our cottage, hewn from oak trees and shaped by hand 250 years ago.

Blazing wood fires that heat the whole house.

An old friend and a new one.

The silk butterfly is something hubby bought before he knew me.
The batik print is something hubby bought just this year.