Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Rock painting


Last weekend we drove down to Winchelsea beach and collected some pebbles for the rock painting we planned to do this week. Winchelsea is a vast expanse of (almost always deserted) pebbles, so perfect for some quiet beach combing. Interestingly, if you've never been to Winchelsea, the town is actually two miles from the beach, as the original town was swallowed up by the sea in a storm in the 13th century. When they rebuilt it, they chose the top of the nearest large hill to ensure that they couldn't find their houses washed away again. Because of their hilltop location Winchelsea has stunning views in every direction. It's one of the most utterly adorable and very English towns we've ever visited.


We bought acrylic paints for the purpose of rock painting right at the start of the holidays and then waited for a warm day when we had no other plans (doing craft activities outside is fairly essential due to the presence of my husband trying to work in one of the open-plan rooms downstairs and a large puppy who has yet to learn not to try and gobble something up the moment it drops on the floor...it is a far from ideal arrangement for the summer holidays). You can see from how brown my children are in the photo below that we have spent a lot of time outside!


Before lunch we enjoyed looking on Pinterest for rock-paining inspiration (there's a lot of it!). We then  spent over six hours painting stones and became so absorbed in our task that when we finally packed away (purely because we ran out of pebbles) my daughter exclaimed: I haven't eaten since lunch time and it's nearly 7pm! This was indeed miraculous, because my children seem to ask for food on an hourly basis during the holidays. This was such a lovely, enjoyable thing to do and so different from painting on paper (which I don't overly enjoy) as there's something more manageable about having a miniature canvas size dictated by the stone.


These were the tiniest things I painted - the policeman is just a bit bigger than my husband's thumb nail.


 My children enjoyed painting a selection of minions from Despicable Me.



And we each painted a house, after falling in love with the tiny villages we'd seen on Pinterest. My daughter also painted this seascape:


While I painted a landscape:


And this cat.


My son made monster rocks with googly eyes, owls and small mice. While my daughter made a bear in a forest and a 'welcome' stone.


Later they named each stone and played the 'Grandmother's Tray' game, where they hid one of the stones and the other person had to guess which was missing. 


We plan to revisit this activity the moment we have some more stones.


Just in case you're interested in painting some rocks yourself, here's what we did: 
  • We used Newton & Windsor acrylic paints. Acrylics are fantastic for this as they dry in minutes and if you make a mistake you can paint straight over it, irrespective of what colour it was originally (so white can paint over black in one easy coat). 
  • We used specialist fine acrylic paintbrushes for intricate painting and an assortment of random old paintbrushes for the less detailed work. 
  • We bought Pilot gold and silver markers with an extra fine point (the type that you shake before use), which was fantastic for adding sparkly detail. 
  • For eyes and fine black outlines we used a very fine Micron pen. Don't do this. Micron pens are fantastic for using as a very fine permanent marker on fabric and paper, however, dry paint will block the nib as they're very sensitive to dust particles (I've since read this on the manufacturers website). Next time we'll use something equally fine, but with a less delicate disposition. I will be re-buying my much loved Micron pen.
  • Once finished, I sprayed our stones with a quick-drying, matt lacquer so that they can be placed outside. We bought ours from our local art shop - it was called 'GOLD acrylic professional spray paint' made by Montana.Cans (The name is deceptive as it's not actually gold, it's completely clear). 
My children have asked me to pin these rocks to Pinterest, as they really want their own to join the ones there that they've spent so much time admiring...so if you follow me you may see some rocks appearing later. 

Florence x

Monday, 19 August 2013

A wolfish fabric


A few nights ago one of those absolutely huge spiders that only ever usually appears inside in our house in September scuttled across our bedroom floor, and it felt like an indication that Autumn is on its way, even though we're only half way through August. However, as England recently had two weeks of glorious sunshine I feel satisfied that we have had 'a proper summer' and so I'm ready to welcome Autumn without the sadness of having had my hopes for a summer cruelly stolen away by a large, drizzly raincloud.


Which is perhaps why when I saw a photo of some beautiful wools that Frances (owner of the lovely Etsy fabric shop Miss Matatabi) had posted on Instagram, I felt instantly excited by them, for embracing Autumn, also means an onset of sewing with a different season in mind. But these wools are in fact wolves in sheep's clothing! Only with none of the nasty wolfiness...just goodness! Because they're not wool at all. They're actually a 100% brushed cotton double gauze fabric that looks like knitted wool, but feels like flannel. Now try and untangle your brain.


The jacket above is a sample made up by the fabric manufacturer, Home Craft. Yes, it looks totally like a knitted jacket, doesn't it! I asked Frances if they'd interlined it, as even the thickness of it looks realistic and she told me that she thought they'd used something akin to quilt batting that made it thick and very soft. For some reason this curious fabric completely fascinates me (I think it's doubly appealing for a seamstress that can't knit!). And I love the idea of being able to have the look of knitted wool, but none of the scratchy, bobbling that can sometimes accompany it or having to cope with its stretchiness while sewing. I can imagine this as tops, dresses, skirts, and actually, I think it would also make an amazing quilt. I love the idea of how soft and snuggly the flannel-feel would make it, but how visually fascinating the wool-look would be.


If you'd like to snaffle some up for yourself, you can find them here.

Returning to spiders, apparently the reason we see so many spiders in September is because it's breeding season so the males are frantically looking for a mate. Yes, spider sex...in our houses. If you want to see a really beautifully shot photo sequence of a spider's seduction routine and a very brief explanation of the mating ritual written below it, you can go here - it's not pornographic, doesn't feel voyeuristic and I don't think the spiders shown would scare someone with arachnophobia - my son tells me they're 'just garden spiders'.

Oddly, I used to be arachnophobic, but have somehow become more able to cope with spiders in the last five or six years. I think in part it is watching my little boy with them - I've witnessed him squeal with laughter as he's willingly placed an enormous spider on his own arm and then allowed it to scuttle over his body and inside his clothes. Just like polyester football shirts, when something you've previously found vile bring enormous amounts of joy to your child, an unfathomable maternal instinct overpowers all previous judgements and manages to transform the object into something at least tolerable (although not to such an extent where one entirely takes leave of one's senses: polyester does not come out for meals, go shopping with us, or on days out, but it does sometimes come to the park with us. Nor are spiders cuddled or welcomed into our home by me...but both are now viewed without excessive amounts of fear). 

What do you think about reality fabrics? Love them or loathe them? Have you made anything with one? 

Florence x

Thursday, 15 August 2013

My broken jacket


I finally finished my jacket...although it took me over a week to get around to hemming the sleeves, creating the buttonholes and putting in the jetted flap pockets.


It hadn't really occurred to me that making the jacket from a pinstripe would create such a masculine look, but actually it feels an unexpectedly k.d lang style of garment...without the benefit of having her fantastic voice when I put the jacket on. The original plain navy jacket that I based this one on doesn't have that feel at all and I think I prefer it that way - I'm not sure I'm tall or angular enough to carry off this look. Which is a good way to feel, because I've had 'an incident' with this jacket.


If I look like I'm clutching my side in pain in the photo above, I sort of am. It's a multi-purpose clutch and one that I'd be forced to do at all times if I ever wore this jacket out of the house. It covers both the problem and the physical pain of realising I'm too silly to multi-task. Unfortunately while I was making the welted flap pockets, I was listening to something very absorbing on the radio and so when I was cutting the final slash to open the welted pocket...I just kept cutting...waaaaayyyy beyond the point at which I should have stopped cutting. While one pocket looks like this:


 The other looks like this:


One would normally set in pockets like this before even beginning to sew the front panels to the back and if I'd done it this way, I would simply have been able to cut a new front panel. My reason for not doing so was that as the pattern was self-drafted I didn't want to invest the time in doing the pockets if I wasn't happy with the fit (frustratingly, the fit is perfect). So they were the very last thing that I did...after binding all the facings, creating the buttonholes, sewing the buttons on and doing a lot of other ultimately pointless but time-consuming things.


If it was a quilt I'd stick a patch over the hole and accept that it was part of its charm, but I lack the hippy spirit required to do this with clothing. It would feel tantamount to going out wearing an eye-patch and pretending to be a pirate. I would feel compelled to point it out to people (like the girl who recently made a gorgeous skirt where the pattern placement inadvertently created an alarming fauxgina...you know who you are! I don't think I ever would have noticed it, but as one commenter on her Instagram feed said - you can't unsee a fauxgina once it's been pointed out to you!). Equally, you can't unsee a strange patch of fabric intended to mask a gaping hole once you've been alerted to it.


So it would seem that this has not been a good week for dressmaking. But I feel undeterred. My husband said, smirking, (smirking very dangerously, when one considers that he did so in the face of a woman with several days of ruined work wrapped around her body!) that he thought a winter version without a hole in it would be great. I'm most excited about this. There will be no holes, no faux-businessman stripes and I will not listen to the radio while I make it (actually that's not true. Listening to Radio 4 while sewing is one of life's greatest pleasures, so I will foolishly risk it again). Does anyone know of a tutorial for inserting a collar just like the one above? I worked it out on my own, but had an hour of turning my brain inside-out to get there. I'm feeling worried about whether I can remember what on earth I did for next time.

Florence x

Friday, 9 August 2013

A post of Allsorts


It feels like a long time since my overlocker has ventured out from its place in the cupboard beneath the stairs. I always dread using it - it somehow doesn't feel like proper sewing - I think of it as mowing the lawn when you'd rather be gardening. But once I start using it I forget that it's something that only moments earlier my inner-luddite had cringed at, and find myself amazed at just how quickly a project comes together when you're not fussing over french seams.

In my last post I mentioned a jacket that I'd worn a lot this summer and decided that I really would like to be able to recreate a winter version. I drafted a pattern that's hopefully very similar to my existing jacket, with a few changes, such as a dart at the bust (my original jacket is from Gap Kids, so lacked this) and no centre back seam. Drafting the convertible collar was something of a challenge as I haven't attempted one of those before...or even actually sewn one.


To test my pattern I used some fabric from my stash: a thick, navy knit fabric with a white pinstripe running through it. Amazingly, it's come together perfectly so far. I still have the welt pockets and buttonholes to do, but other than that drafting and making it was a freakily speedy process, which was just perfect for the window of time I had to get it done (at the moment, any free time I get when the children happen to be out of the house or amusing themselves I'm working alongside my husband, so some time to sew feels like a precious thing until they return to school in September). I'm looking forward to moving onto making a cold-weather version next. I don't have an EPP project going this summer, which is a nice thing that can be done while the children are around...but even that takes time to set up with planning out a pattern and then getting all the templates and fabrics ready and it's time that hasn't appeared yet (also my quilt design software, EQ7, not working on my Mac causes quite a fundamental problem too).  I'm hankering after the time when I would launch into doing something like that at 10pm, when at the moment the best I can manage is falling asleep over my book at 9.30pm. Is anyone else suffering in the same way? I seem to have so much more energy in the winter. Last night was the first time for months that I've stayed up really late sewing - I re-remembered how energising it is, but it requires becoming immersed in a project at a decent hour beforehand to allow me to actually have the motivation to do it.

But that's nothing compared to opening a fabric shop a month after you've had your first baby...which is what Courtney, owner of Seamstar and my newest sponsor, did. Seamstar was amongst the first really lovely, modern online fabric shops that I remember opening up here in England (if you've only been sewing relatively recently you may not be aware that it wasn't so very long ago that you would have found yourself placing overseas orders to get access to the lovely designer fabrics that are so easily available here now). I've always loved Seamstar's fabrics (it was there that I found the lovely Monaluna apples fabric which features as the main print in my son's quilt, which I made for him a few years ago - those trotters look so very small now! My daughter now has feet 3 shoe sizes bigger than mine!).


I asked Courtney if she could share a little of the background to Seamstar. For me, the idea of owning a fabric shop has a certain mystique about it (as does owning a chocolate shop or a children's shoe shop). I wonder how a fabric shop owner picks their stock when I have so much angst finalising which fat quarter I'd like. Here's what she said:

I started Seamstar in 2008, a month after giving birth to my first baby. Just a bit insane when I think about it now! When the baby was sleeping I was cutting fabric, learning html website code & researching the best way to package craft products (which, by the way, is in lovely colourful tissue-paper, carefully tied with ribbon & placed in a waterproof postal bag).

There's been a lot of changes since the start; Seamstar doesn't only sell fabrics but now sells lots of different things like felt, ribbons, trims and haberdashery. From the early days of just me we now have a lovely team of 8 people. We also have a monthly Craft Club so people can join in with our website and collect our products.

There are some things that haven't changed throughout the last 5 years; I still spend a lot of time designing (and redesigning) the website. I don't think the Seamstar website will ever be finished. 

I'm delighted to learn that Seamstar have plans for expanding their dressmaking range too! They are about to launch into something of a blog overhaul, so you'll be able to hear about those things as and when they happen. In the meantime, you can find all sorts of lovelies in their shop

In other news, if you write a blog (or would like to!) and enjoy thinking and talking over the practical issues, or even the emotive aspects, of doing so, then you may like to take a look at Blogtacular. This is the brainchild of the two lovely Kats (Kat Goldin and Kat Molesworth) and will be held at London's Royal Institution in May 2014. If you're interested in going, now is the time when you can chat to the two Kats to help make it an event that you feel really excited about attending. 

Anyway, it's Friday afternoon. The children are off shopping for ingredients to make a Coffee & Walnut Cake together and I'm going to make some of Sophie Dahl's peanut butter fudge alongside them (the latter is a once a year creation, due to it being so unhealthy). As with the terrariums, I've assigned myself a project to prevent myself from interfering in their lovely work - the nice thing about getting older is attempting to develop solutions to try and keep one's flaws in check (and there's still SO much work to be done, so I expect I'll be able to enjoy hunting them down well into old age)!

 I hope you have fun planned too. 

Florence x

Monday, 5 August 2013

Making terrariums


Ever since I'd seen Kate's terrarium I'd put it on a list of things I wanted to do with my children over the summer. I showed them her post and then we spent a few hours on Pinterest discussing what our ideal dreamy-looking terrarium might include.

We waited until we were precisely one day into the holidays (I'd said we'd do it 'at some point' but I had as much desire for delayed gratification as they did) before eagerly gathering supplies and setting to work. Choosing the plants was an integral part of the making-a-terrarium fun and we ended up laying them all out on the floor of the garden centre and then putting them back one by one until we'd narrowed our choices down - there's something about the miniature and unusual appearance of succulents that makes them utterly appealing to children. The terrarium pictured below is the one my son made.


Once we'd returned home we spent the entire day in the garden in the hot sun assembling them. It will go down in my memory as one of the most enjoyable days I've ever spent with my children - they were so inspired by the plants and the images that we'd seen on Pinterest that they were bubbling over with unwilting enthusiasm for the entire day. We made lots of things that we didn't end up including in the final arrangement - such as miniature bunting strung between two sticks and signposts. We did include the tiny ponds we made, using vitamin bottle lids covered in Liberty print fabrics and then over-pasted with a few layers of Mod Podge (an amazing glue that gives fabric a lacquered finish) to help withstand the terrariums being watered.


I made the one at the front left of the above photo as a birthday gift for my grandmother...the same one mentioned in previous posts whom my sister and I made gnome gardens with over three decades ago. It's now safely in her own house and she was delighted by it.


My daughter made this fairytale-style terrarium with Rapunzel's tower as her inspiration - she's not a girly-girl, so it's a very un-Disneyfied version of the classic, with even the pond covered in a subtle sage green Liberty print that blends in with its surroundings (you can see the pond in the photo at the top of this post).

I also made a few to go around the house: one for the fireplace in the living room, using the beautiful cedar roses my husband found a few years ago. (the bowl doesn't have strange ridges on its lip - that's the reflection of the grate from the fire)


And another for the red fireplace...that erm...isn't red anymore! As suddenly as my wish for colour hit me, it vanished again. This fireplace might appear to be entirely cream...but it's actually far more interesting than that. The back wall of it is painted in a contrasting shade of stone that only highly colour-attuned people can actually see. Can you see it? It's only having forayed into being a person who uses a splatter gun to spray bold colours around the house (actually, it was only ever just one room), that I'm able to conclude that I'm totally happy being someone who surrounds herself in a neutral palette of creams and whites, even if that makes me a little boring.


Making a terrarium is a fairly expensive activity, so we spent some time sourcing the most reasonably priced materials. My children actually seemed to embrace this as part of the project as I'd told them at the outset that we could either make one joint terrarium if the cost was prohibitive or each make our own, plus make one for their great grandmother, if we could source reasonably priced materials. I was hoping desperately for the latter as I'm much more able to control my 'helpful-suggestion-tendency' if I have my hands busy with my own project. We found that we could buy succulents and cacti at the garden centre at Homebase for around 75p each (compared to £2.50 at our local independent garden centre...a saving of over £50 when you're buying around 30 plants! I usually choose to support independents, but on this occasion economy won) and after a lot of searching we found a source of beautiful large glass bowls and vases, mostly for around £5 or £6 each at an end-of-line outlet. The most expensive part of the project was buying the charcoal from our local aquatics centre, which is boring but essential as it will help to keep the terrarium fresh.


One interesting thing that came about when I told my mother that we were making 'terraniums' was that  she suggested that this word - which is commonly used to describe these gardens on Pinterest and produces over 60,000 search results on Google - isn't actually a word that exists in the English dictionary, but rather the word should be 'terrarium'. As soon as she'd said it, it made sense. Just like an aquarium that holds water, a 'terrarium' would hold earth (terra being latin for earth, and arium, although not being a word in its own right, commonly being an ending that describes a receptacle to put things in). And yet, most people seem to understand what the newly-created word 'terranium' means and it seems to have become a word in its own right because of its apparent misuse* over the internet. Either way, having initially taught them the incorrect word, my children have been most resistant to re-learning this word in its correct form as apparently it doesn't flow off the tongue nicely. I can see their point and I'm not against its wilful misuse because in some ways it feels nicer and as though it also gives a nod to the word 'subterranean' in sound which in some ways feels right for describing gardens that grow beneath the rim of the vase, like a secret garden.

If you'd like to make your own terranium or terrarium you can find more how-to details on Kate's blog.

And while we're on the subject of fictitious words, I should clarify that when I said in my last post that Timeless Fabrics are opening up a fabric shop in Milton-on-Sea in Hampshire, they're not. They're actually opening up a shop in Milford-on-Sea. I'm sorry if my invented place brought to mind images of a fabric shop against a backdrop of sterilising tablets floating on sea...or even the bobbing head of the poet John Milton amongst the waves.  And while we are updating on my last post, I have heard back from two of the three Simons (there were actually only two Simons, but I did suggest that a further one may be using a pseudonym) - one who expressed his relief at my having outed his double life, another who signed himself Simon & Simone. The third has remained eerily quiet.

Florence x

* Is this right? Do you have a dictionary that declares 'terranium' to be a word - I've searched the online ones and can't find any evidence of it. But I'm wondering if it may exist in some obscure scientific dictionary.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

New things


Today is a very large sponsor update, welcoming new ones and filling you in on some of the changes that others have been undergoing.

Firstly, if you live anywhere near Worthing, then your fabric stash may be in danger of getting bigger. My long-time sponsors, Simon and Jo at Eclectic Maker, have opened up a real fabric shop in their home town of Worthing (just opposite West Worthing railway station), in addition to their online business. I've always loved their choice of fabrics, so intend to make a detour myself next time we're on the Brighton to Worthing road (en route to Dorset or the Isle of Wight - a journey that usually takes place about once every two years...but I'm pleased I now have the perfect thing to break the journey up - my family will be thrilled too). Until then, for those of us not near Worthing, there's their very lovely online shop.


Next Dorte and Simon (a different Simon, although I do love the idea of there being one Simon that runs himself ragged flitting around simultaneously being the husband of several different fabric shop owners because his sewing addiction is so great) at Dragonfly Fabrics have several new things in: a range of poplins designed independently by Sarah Campbell-Lloyd who has the fabric specially printed in India (some of these prints already have form a geometric pattern with the way the design is placed, so would look fantastic fussy-cut to create even more unexpected patterns); a new collection of beautiful linens; and they've also extended their range of boiled wool fabrics. I should say that these fabrics are expensive. Really expensive. But I've felt these boiled wools in the past and they are fantastic quality and I think there are occasions when I actually set out with the purpose of sewing something of a quality I can't justify buying from a designer...so although the sewing cost may amount to £60 to make a winter coat or jacket, that's a lot less expensive than the £350 I may wish I was able to spend if buying something off the peg. This summer on the cooler days when I've reverted to jeans, I've been wearing them with this fitted jacket (below) made from a Ponte Roma jersey that I bought from Gap kids (as it's plain navy hopefully you can't tell it's a children's jacket from the outside and I try to keep the pink seam bindings hidden!) and I'm now considering remaking it for Autumn, possibly in Dragonfly Fabrics' boiled wool in grey/blue or maybe a sombre black.

I also have a few new sponsors that I'm delighted to introduce. The first of which is Frumble, run by Monica, Matthew and Chris (although I like to think that one or both of the latter may be Simon again using a pseudonym). Frumble are a unique fabric shop with a quirky sense of humour, where things that fall outside the mainstream fabric ranges are stocked. You can find fox in socksskeletons diagrams that seem to be taken straight from my secondary school's biology lab walls; prints of bats and spiders to delight my nine year old boy who appreciates realism over cartoonery; a variety of moustaches; some finely drawn vegetables; Black cats who tie their tales into love hearts; Black cats in a dark room who can barely be seen save for their glistening eyes; a selection of named dogs that I feel strangely drawn to because I like things that have been christened in some way*; painterly penguins; a fabric landscape of English country pubs; a farmer's market of different food stands; some beautifully drawn ghastlies. The list of surreal and unexpected fabrics is almost endless. This is the place to go if you are sewing for someone in particular and wish to create something that reflects their quirks and idiosyncrasies. Or just if you wish to sew something more unusual (they do actually have lots of regular prints too, but it's their off-the-wall ones that I've chosen to share here as I've enjoyed looking through them so much). One of my favourites is this canine newspaper print below. I zoomed in so that I could read some of the stories and they made me laugh imagining how much my dog-obsessed husband would love it.

;

Frumble also have a beautiful selection of cotton lace that I think would be wonderful for dressmaking (just because that's the particular sewing phase that I'm in at the moment, but it's probably wonderful for lots of other things too). I love the way the lace has been used on this (shop-bought) top below where it takes the place of any tucks, pleats or yokes that might have otherwise added visual interest. All the openings are also edged in a different lace, but because of the simple fabric it doesn't feel overly fussy.


Which brings me onto my next lovely new sponsor, because Claire of Timeless Fabrics actually stocks a fabric just like this. Timeless Fabrics is an online fabric shop filled with a carefully chosen selection of fabrics for both dressmaking and quilting. The white dobby fabric similar to that shown above is here and they also stock it in black. I have something of an obsession with dobby fabrics: I love that they are simple, but not dull or plain. You can see a top that I made with white dobby here, and a top that I made with white dobby that I'd dyed blue, here (I've also included a photo below).


Claire also stocks some of the beautiful Nani Iro knit fabrics. Nani Iro fabrics tend to have a unique feel to them and, true to form, this is unlike any other knit I've laid my paws on before - it's thicker, but oddly light at the same time (I know this because Kerry very kindly sent me a sample of it after I'd swooned over a gorgeous t-shirt she'd made from it, but it doesn't feel fair to Kerry to let you swoon over it right here, as she actually bought her knit fabric from one of her own lovely sponsors). This isn't a flowing knit, like a bamboo or viscose jersey - it's got more body than that. If you used it to make a summer skirt, my guess is that it would stand slightly proud of the body, rather than clinging to every curve, which I think would look super as an above-the-knee skirt with a few pleats at the waist. 

Those in Hampshire may be excited to know that Timeless Fabrics is also branching out to also inhabit a real shop in Milton-on-Sea. You can follow the blog for more updates on this. 

I have a few more fabric shop-related things to tell you about maybe next week, but in the meantime, eyes right, if you want to snaffle up some fabric from any of my other lovely sponsors. 

Florence x

* I've no idea who will be stocking this as it's not been released yet, but while I was on the subject of named animals, I re-remembered my delight at finding that in Aneela Hooey's next fabric collection there is a white cat called Bella, just like our own large white fur ball who goes by the same name, as well as the names of lots of lovelies that we know in real life. I keep meaning to show my children this as I know it will delight them too. They are currently out with grandparents, which is why I'm finally able to write this blog post, as between the adventures we've been up to and working on Squeebles, there hasn't been a huge amount of time for anything else. In my last post I told you that I was reading Maggie O'Farrell's 'Instructions for a Heatwave'. When my sister read that, she wrote to me and told me that she'd love to read it as a two-person book group where, in her words 'one of the members has novel-induced narcolepsy and the other doesn't know what to do with a bucket' (this stems back to a time when we saw a small enamel bucket that we both pondered buying for aesthetic reasons, but were slightly stumped over what its intended purpose could be, before she took it up to the counter and enquired in all seriousness 'what would normal people do with this?'...which nearly a decade later still makes me laugh). My sister had just come back from the Hay Festival where she'd listened to Maggie O'Farrell talking about just that book. I happily Amazoned her a copy to arrive the next day...and have since continued to fall asleep each night after reading a line and a half. My sister is now nearly finished, while I still have it to look forward to all summer long, possibly the rest of the year. How is your summer? 
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