Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Your Own Exceptional Talent

Last week, I finally remade a top that fell at the last hurdle two years ago when I realised I'd forgotten to interface the button placket. I don't really know how I forgot, but I do remember that when I came to slice those button holes open they inevitably looked like wild beasts had mauled them. I'm grateful that my 2019 version, above, was more of a success.

On the subject of failure and subsequent success (a tenuous link as I have way bigger failures up my sleeve than ruined buttonholes),  I've been working my way through the archives of Elizabeth Day's How to Fail podcast recently, which is all about embracing failure and looking at how it helps to shape people's subsequent successes. The interviews, which are vulnerable, funny, and often moving, are like overhearing a discussion between two friends, in part because the interviewees often are Elizabeth's friends, but also because most talk with startling honesty. In theory, it's obvious that failure is a normal and inescapable part of being human (as opposed to a unique sign of uselessness), but I'm not sure I truly believed it until listening to all these interviews. 

My favourites so far have been Jessie Burton (novelist), Dolly Alderton (journalist), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (creator of Fleabag and Killing Eve), Gina Miller (the political activist who successfully took the government to court on Brexit-related maters), David Baddiel (comedian), and David Nicholls (novelist), but they're all amazing.

This would be good listening at any time, but particularly heartening in a week where I wondered if maybe the ONLY thing I was any good at was doing buttonholes second-time around. This was later upped to perhaps I'm good at doing buttonholes second time around AND naming songs, when my husband and I were sitting around the table working, and took a few minutes' break to play Name the Song. That makes it sound like a game where we take turns, but we don't - it's one-sided game where my husband goes through his iTunes library and plays the first note of a song and I have to name both the title and the artist. We are both always delighted by how awesome I am at this and I would say it's one of my exceptional talents. The only downside is the realisation I can't actually use this talent out in the world in any meaningful way. I would love to know what you'd consider your own exceptional talent to be!

On Saturday morning, my sister texted me with the words, 'Regretting your colour choice?' and a photo she'd taken of a car, just like my own, but in the most startling shiny gold (it looked exactly like these - do click through because it's hard to believe a car could be so shiny or so golden until you see it with your own eyes). A few years ago, my son showed me some YouTube videos about cars being shrink-wrapped in coloured vinyl (he always seems to know the ones that will suck me in - it was mesmerising!) and I'm pretty sure that's how it was done, as it was way too shiny to be spray paint. 

Anyway, when my sister's text came in, I just happened to be sitting with this fabric on my knee, so was able to tell her that I can actually cope with my car not being so fancy (fyi: it's black), because I'm about to make a sparkly gold leopard print jumpsuit - consolation in anyone's eyes, surely? Those are not words I ever thought I'd find myself typing, but I feel oddly remorseless. 

Florence x

Fabric notes: The top photo is a lovely drapey viscose by Atelier Brunette, called Moonstone. The gold-car-substitute fabric in the bottom photo is a cotton jersey from Guthrie & Ghani, found here.  

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Pattern Drafting Failure

Several years ago, as I walked out through the door after my final lesson on pattern cutting at The London College of Fashion, our lovely teacher called after us, 'Use it or lose it, ladies'.

Her voice comes into my head now, when I realise I haven't used it and now the hundreds of hours of pattern cutting knowledge I'd once accumulated seem to have fallen out of my head while writing my book and madly English paper piecing everything in sight. I can now see there would have been real merit in taking some time out from those things occasionally to do some maintenance pattern drafting, but I'd thought it would be like riding a bike. It's come as a shock to find my bike feels so rusty I can barely turn the pedals, and that as I've stood with my old tools to hand - french curve, tracing wheel, flexible ruler - it's taken me a while to remember even the basic principle of drawing a vertical line to denote the centre front or centre back of my pattern.

I recently bought a jumpsuit (this is only my second jumpsuit, but I think if you find a nice one, they're such good things I can imagine never wanting to wear anything else again), but I knew even before I wore it that they'd used the wrong kind of jersey with no stretch recovery, and that it would seat horribly. And it does.

You might question why I've kept it if I could see the fault before wearing it, but there are three reasons: before sitting, it's basically the best jumpsuit I think I'm ever likely to find in terms of fit; I can wear it judiciously on days when I will mainly be standing up or am with good friends who tell me how great it looks from the front and accept my wish to move through their house with my back to the wall, but also subsequently of the sight of my behind when I stop bothering to use the 'wall cover method of movement' after a few glasses of wine (this one has already happened and I had a thoroughly lovely time wearing it); finally, because I want to use it as a basis for recreating the pattern so that I could make many more versions. It's actually the third reason that was the deciding factor in keeping it.

Rubbing off the patterns from garments already in my wardrobe used to be something I could do with relative ease, so it's come as a shock to find myself struggling with this now. The trouser part of the jumpsuit was fairly plain-sailing after various forgotten drafting principles had slowly come back to me, the arms too, but the bodice has proven to be something of a disaster and has sat on my cutting table threatening to be abandoned entirely. But I so don't want it to be, because it would be so good to have a version to wear on sitting-down days, which in truth are far more a part of my life than standing up days.

Just in case there are any dressmakers out there who can help, here's my problem: when I rub off a pattern like this, I end up with a completely dartless bodice block. I transfer the points were any sewn darts sit and then study the inside of the original garment to work out how big they should be. The darts in this garment are quite big - totalling 4" each along the side seams and 2" each at the waist, and although I'm finding it easy enough to put one dart into my dartless block, two is presenting something of a nightmare for me as it then upsets with the line of the first dart. I think I could fudge this if the darts were smaller, but they're massive and refuse to be fudged. If anyone has come across a tutorial for putting both a waist and bust dart into a dartless block, I'd be eternally grateful if you could tell me where, as I can only find one or the other.

My only other option seems to be to take the jumpsuit apart and then literally trace the pattern pieces off (literally is in italics as my sister always teases me when I use this word, so it delights me to highlight it for her, even though she may not read this far as she prefers non-technical posts), but I'm loathe to do this as I don't want to take a perfectly good-but-with-saggy-bottom garment apart and risk it not going back together again quite as perfectly.

It feels like I'm ending this post on with a depressingly unexciting dressmaking cliffhanger and I can't think of a way to dressing it up as anything more, so I'll just sidle away from this blog post, back against the wall style...

Florence x

Monday, 15 April 2019

Pierre Bonnard and Other Things...

Last week, I went to the Pierre Bonnard exhibition at Tate Modern in London. It was gorgeous and the paintings featuring wallpapers and fabrics doubly so - I'm unsure how a painting of a floral wallpaper should be so much more captivating than one of an actual flowering landscape, but somehow it is (to me, at least). We played our own game of Where's Wally, spotting Bonnard's wife and companion Marthe, who featured in many of his paintings, although not always prominently. Often we'd think it was a painting where Marthe hadn't snuck in, only to find her out on the balcony visible through a window, or hiding in the wilderness of the garden. The postcard (below left) was one of my favourites. Note the less captivating outdoor scene on the programme...or do you find it more so? Is it only me who could happily pass by the outdoor scenes?

Yesterday I spent a delicious afternoon with my husband reading the Sunday papers in total silence, lying at opposite ends of sofa. We fell asleep covered in papers and woke several hours later, and I realised there are few things I love more than lazing an entire day away like this. We used to do this all the time before having children. Now we tend to fill our spare time with doing things - sewing, board games, cooking, chatting, sport...although the sport belongs to other family members, not me - but actually there's a lot to be said for doing absolutely nothing occasionally. Regular readers may be horrified by the outrageous hypocrisy of my lying beneath the red quilt while doing nothing...but what can I say...it was warm. And maddeningly, I now see my husband's point - it's somehow cosier than any other quilt. And the lovely Dog Face, of course, does a lot to improve the eye-stabbyness of the colour.

I'm making spectacularly slow progress on the quilt that will eventually replace (in location, if not favour) the red one above, although it's relatively fast for the small number of hours spent sewing so far. This is the one thing I love about hand-piecing over EPP - it's quicker, although still slightly less enjoyable for me. While I've been sewing, I've been listening to archived interviews from the Hay Festival via their web-based HayPlayer, which from memory, I think costs about £10 per year to subscribe to. A few favourites have been Rose Tremain, Gina Miller, and Meg Wolitzer, along with Kishwar Desai and Ann Patchett, who made a joint appearance. I think I love the Hay Festival archives more than any other podcast...I just wish it existed in podcast form, rather than through the web as it seems to have a habit of signing me out in the middle of listening, which is frustrating, but shouldn't allow you to be put off - it's totally worth the small frustration.

I'm currently reading a collection of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. It's tricky to find short story collections by a single author that I like as much as a novel, but this is an exception (the last one was Maile Meloy's Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, which I read years ago. I then lent it to my dad each week so he had something to read while he waited for my son to come out of a swimming lesson (which means that too must have been years ago as my son is now a giant teenager with a very deep voice). We had to confiscate that book in the end, as the stories were so good that my father kept being late to collect my son at the end of the lesson - that's really the best recommendation for a book, as he is not prone to forgetting grandchildren). Jhumpa's stories that I'm reading right now have the common thread of Indian immigrants living in America, but that's really the only similarity - each new cast of characters feels distinct and memorable. I feel like I know the characters well despite the shortness of the stories, and she has a wonderful way of saying a lot about a person in a single line:
Her father’s penmanship was small, precise, slightly feminine; her mother’s had been a jumble of capital and lowercase, as though she’d learned to make only one version of each letter.
and later:
It was her voice that appealed to him most, well modulated, her words always measured, as if there were only a limited supply of things she was willing to say on any given day.

I hope, if you have any time off around Easter, that you have a lovely break and find time to do absolutely nothing (non eye-stabby quilt preferable, but not essential). Also, do tell me what you're reading or watching. We've recently watched The Bodyguard series (yes, months after everyone else), and found it absolutely gripping. We're now casting about for something else that bridges the  gaping crevasse between our polar-opposite viewing preferences. Previous successes are: Goliath; Unabomber; Handmaid's Tale; Friday Night Lights; Designated Survivor...

Florence x

Monday, 1 April 2019

Nani Iro Cotton Sateen Quilt

Nani Iro Fuccra Rakuen Cotton Sateen Diamond Quilt

This is what's on my design wall at the moment (it should be noted that I do always feel faintly ridiculous when I refer to this as a 'design wall' - it makes me feel as though great and serious things should be going on up there. A 'quilt planning wall' sits more comfortably for me, but rejecting a widely understood term in favour of one that lacks any finesse feels just as ridiculous, so the upshot seems to be that, whichever way I turn, I am destined to feel ridiculous around one of these fabric-grabbing walls. Thankfully, I only think about it when I go to write the word down, so it's not a lasting affliction).

My quilt features two colourways of Nani Iro's beautiful Fuccra Rakuen design, one of my very favourite prints. It's cotton sateen, which I'd been nervous about making a quilt from, but when it arrived I found it lacks the sheen that sateen can sometimes have and feels a perfectly acceptable quilt fabric (although if you're a dressmaker, this would make the most amazing dress/skirt/blouse). The cream colourway is from this Etsy shop in Germany and the teal blue is from this one in Japan.

Nani Iro Fuccra Rakuen Cotton Sateen

Ideally, I would have gathered a few more prints together, but I couldn't find anything else in cotton sateen that went well with these, so I stuck at two. Whenever I'm lacking inspiration and want to make a quilt that showcases a particular fabric, I often turn to Jane Brocket's Gentle Art of Quilt-Making and did just that here. I'd already been considering diamonds as their shape would allow the two fabrics to intermingle, softening the contrast between the two colours (rather than forming into geometric blocks, which is what would more likely happen using squares) and Jane happens to have a really beautiful diamond quilt in her book (top right in the photo below). Even though it uses several prints, it confirmed my feeling that it could be a good option. The hardback is now out of print by the way, but worth buying second-hand for the beautiful cover hiding beneath the dust jacket, although the paperback looks very lovely too. Either way, I think it's one of those books that it's an essential in any quilt book library.

Jane Brocket's Gentle Art of Quilt-Making book

It actually took me all day to cut the diamonds at the top of this post - and that's just half a quilt's worth. I find the cutting and drawing of lines onto the fabric for hand-piecing far less engaging than the cutting and wrapping process of English paper piecing. However, I've since had lots of suggestions as to how to make this bit go more quickly, including the idea of using stamps and ink pads in future, which Helen discusses in this blog post (including links for where to buy them). Sadly, the stamps are at too small a scale for this project - a complaint I never thought I'd be able to make given my love of miniature - but I'll definitely look into these for my next hand-piecing project.

Wishing you a happy week,
Florence x

Monday, 25 March 2019

A Miscellaneous Assortment

When my children were small they used to call a fruit salad a 'fruit medley', which they'd pronounce med-el-eee in deliciously lispy voices. There's something lovely about that stage when children are trying on words that are too big for them - I always remember my son's first time using the word 'actually' in conversation when he was about two and just wanting to gobble him up because it sounded so ridiculously oversized coming from his mouth.

I probably prefer the word 'assortment' to medley now...medley is a sharper sounding word, while assortment has connotations of liquorice allsorts and a cosy feeling of oddment. Miscellany is a good one too - that makes me think of tiny boxes with curiosities inside. But whatever the term, this blog post is pure medley/ assortment/ miscellany/ jumble, so I hope you have a good root around and find something you like in here.

I recently read Every Note Played, by Lisa Genova - it's about a concert pianist's descent into ALS, a condition that takes away the power of movement over one body part at a time, eventually leaving the sufferer locked in. I'm not sure how the novel managed to avoid being thoroughly depressing, but somehow it did, even though I cried my way through many parts of it. It did a brilliant job of exploring the relationships of the dying man and his estranged family in a way that felt real and unsentimental, as well as giving insight into a condition I knew little about. I'd recommend it.

A friend recently recommended the series After Life with Ricky Gervais and my husband and I started watching it with our children last night. The language is quite shocking (including that very worst of words beginning with C, so be warned as that may mean it's not for everyone), but if you can get over that, it's painfully funny and also incredibly touching. I cried my way through the first four episodes (there's a theme here), interrupted only by clutching my stomach because I was laughing so much. It's about a man (played by Ricky Gervais), whose wife has recently died, and explores his cantankerous interactions with the world in the aftermath. His relationship with his dog is really touching, and the humour is dark, but quite delicious (for want of another photo to illustrate this post with, the mention of the word dog has prompted a photo of Nell).

We have frequent board game afternoons/evenings/entire days, sometimes as a family, often with friends. The mainstay is Settlers of Catan (with several extension packs), a brilliant strategy game that I think I've mentioned here before, but more recently we've discovered Azul, which is very different, but also good, and we've also added Arboretum to the games library too, which has beautifully illustrated cards. Settlers is still the ultimate, but it's nice to have some new ones in rotation.

After Life notwithstanding, it can be hard to find things to watch as a family (my children are 17 and 14) when everyone wants different things. I mostly watch things with my daughter as we tend to like the same things, but we recently all watched Free Solo, a documentary film set around a man's mission to climb El Capitan in Yosemite without ropes and it was gripping and universally enjoyed (although I don't like heights and had to watch through my hands in places, so universally enjoyed with a side of nausea for some).

My friend Jenny (hello, PW!), recently recommended a podcast called Love Stories with Dolly Alderton, where people share stories about all the different kinds of love they've experienced throughout their lives. I'd recommend listening to Emma Freud's interview, which was wickedly funny, although I winced for poor Cousin Charlotte. The link will take you to iTunes, although it should be available wherever you listen to your podcasts.

On Saturday, with a million others, I went into London with my parents and daughter for the People's Vote march, possibly a last opportunity to convey our feelings about Brexit to the government. The banners and signs we saw were amazing - people showed their anger with such wit and good humour. My three favourites were simple ones though:
 I'm really cross.
British and on a march - things must be bad.
Things are so bad, even the introverts are here. 
The latter summed up my own attendance, which was more about putting my feet on the street, than entering into any uncharacteristic outbursts of chanting and I enjoyed an afternoon chatting to my dad while we walked. In case you haven't already heard, there's currently a petition on the government website (sadly, only open to UK residents/British citizens - at home or abroad - aged over 18) requesting Article 50 be revoked. At the time of writing it has 5.5 million signatures on it, which are apparently unlikely to be bots as you have to click a link in an email to confirm your vote, and each email address can only be used once. There is something joyful about seeing that number flicker upwards every thirty seconds. Worth adding your name to if it aligns with your views and you haven't already.

En route to the march, we passed a small market selling an eclectic mix of antiques and handmade. It's a bit of a chicken and egg situation for me trying to guess at whether my obsession with EPP is partly borne out of a love of kaleidoscopes or vice versa (see my blog banner if you're wondering where the similarity is), but either way, the love is real and when I saw what this one was capable of, I found it impossible to leave behind - by changing the position of the kaleidoscope the beads float down and the image appears to fall towards you. 

I made a video of it in action, although it only shows half the wonder as it's even more incredible if you also rotate the kaleidoscope at the same time, something I wasn't capable of doing while also filming (I tried. And failed).

I'm not sure I've ever loaded a video onto Blogger before so I hope it works for you.

I'd love to hear what you're watching/reading/doing.

Wishing you a happy week,
Florence x

Monday, 11 March 2019

Mud Wall

Let's begin with a random photo of Bella, just because she's nicer than any of the photos that follow - you can really see her age in this photo as although her fur looks quite plentiful, it also like that of an older, shaggier cat, which I find endearing. She's been acting quite strangely since Honey died and I think she may suspect Nell of having eaten her (a not unreasonable assumption from one who saw Honey was there one moment and then gone the next. Although they never actually spent much time together, so it would be a belated loyalty on Bella's part), as the dynamic between them seems to have changed and now when Nell walks past, Bella has begun punching at her with a curled paw, or worse, swiping with claws out. Nell is terrified and we have twice discovered her whimpering in the utility room, too scared to walk past Bella, who seems to enjoy blocking her way like a school bully (as well as drinking from Nell's water bowl, which is like a great lake compared to Bella's own and so is quite a funny sight). It's odd how utterly defenceless Nell seems in the face of an animal that's less than a quarter of her size - there must be much animal messaging between them goes undetected by humans. This is the problem with starting with a random photo...this post was actually meant to be about paint colours.

Finally fully recovered from flu, last weekend I decided to repaint a wall in the kitchen I've always disliked. Most of our walls are very light, but that one was a curious colour I'd mixed up from odds and ends of paint in our garage. Once I'd created my special shade, I enthusiastically daubed it on without waiting around between coats for things to dry, deciding that was probably just one of those tedious things manufacturers like to tell you to do unnecessarily. I was rewarded with a colour that was curiously patchy and later, the effect of two coats of paint drying at different rates meant it actually began to splinter into tiny cracks like baked mud in summer. Essentially, my painting style is the exact opposite to that of my approach to English paper piecing...it's as though the EPP has gobbled up all the patience and care and left me with nothing to offer to a paintbrush. For this reason, I've always left most of the painting to my husband as he is awesome at it, although he refuses to be drawn into anything that doesn't involve cream paint on the grounds that I could change my mind once the colour is on the wall*.

I imagine without evidence you may feel I am hamming up my wall for dramatic effect, so I thought I'd share a photo, even though it pains me. When I showed it to the man in the paint shop he said, 'Oh, I see! You're painting on wood - I'd misunderstood and thought it was a wall,' to which I had to confess that it was actually a wall and that I'd somehow created a cracked woodgrain effect on it. Do feel free to click to enlarge it if you'd like to admire it in its full glory.

Whenever I pondered the problem of the patchy, cracked wall in my head - about once a week for 18 months - I could only see four options: get the wall freshly plastered, tile over the wall, knock the wall down, or move house. But should you ever find yourself in a similar situation (I can't imagine the person who would, but it would be so nice to know of a kindred spirit if that's you), there's a fifth option that costs barely anything: you can sand the entire wall by hand with some 120-grit sandpaper wrapped around a woodblock and you'll end up with the something similar to a freshly plastered wall and feel immeasurably proud of yourself. It took me three hours of intensive sanding and an unbelievable amount of dust to smooth the wall back, but it worked. I was so grateful much of the wall is covered by cupboards, reducing the area that needed sanding.

The other suggestion my paint shop made to me is that you can get a really smooth line between colours if you use non-bleed masking tape, rather than just regular masking tape - it's much more expensive, but I can now see definitely worth it. I also watched a wonderful YouTube video that said sometimes you can get a little channel where two walls meet (we have one of those) and if you paint along that it will stop you from achieving a crisp wall (very true - the cracked mud was far from crisp in this area), so the trick is to actually paint an 1/8" onto the adjoining wall and paint a little way around the corner, in this case onto the cream wall (see the below photo). Anyway, after all that preparation and study, I found myself turning over a brand new leaf and took extreme care with my painting and even enjoyed it. My entire family offered surprised congratulations on its successful completion.

With the relative triumph of the green wall still fresh in his mind, my husband felt it was safe to risk buying me two thick Farrow & Ball books all about painting and decorating for my birthday last week and they are things of wonder. I actually read both of them cover to cover, rather than just looking at the pictures, and learnt so much. They are really nicely written - not prescriptive or rule-based, but full of inspiration and encouragement. I liked also that although they take their paints seriously, they don't seem to take the act of decorating itself seriously and see it more as grounds to have fun and play with colour, confessing to pretty much redecorating their own homes once a month.

While I really loved neutral colours like the ones above and use them pretty much everywhere, my heart does do a little leap every time I see a photo of a room with intense, saturated colour or a beautiful wallpaper and what I learnt while reading these books is that if you have a really tiny room, painting it in neutrals may only draw attention to its smallness or make it feel a bit nothingy, where using a lot of delicious colour and pattern will make that the thing that people notice. This really reminded me of the way my mum decorated when I was growing up, where a small downstairs loo was always an excuse for her to use some crazy riotous wallpaper - I particularly remember her using this red Laura Ashley Floribunda wallpaper when I was a teenager (curiously, my parents now live in a house where every wall is painted white as it suits their architecture best that way, although my mum is still quite dramatic with upholstery and fabrics). But anyway, my thoughts have turned to decorating my own downstairs loo and possibly my husband's small office too, which feel like contained areas to unleash some colour, so I've been having fun ordering wallpaper samples and thinking about paint colours.

For the last fifteen years, I've always used Little Greene's paints - they're deliciously thick and have a nice chalky finish, but after reading Farrow & Ball's books about their use of pigment and the explanation of why their paint is necessarily so thin, I'm beginning to wonder if anyone who has used them has noticed the difference? Is it discernibly more lovely? Does it seem to magically change in different lights in a way that other paints don't?

In the photo above, bottom is Little Greene's paint chart, on top is Farrow & Ball's. I want them all.

Before I go, I want to leave you with a photo of the birthday card made by my daughter - my family always make me handmade cards and its become something of a one-horse competition between them, where every year when my daughter's card is unveiled (it's always made in complete secrecy to increase her chances of winning and avoid any copying, which did happen one year), my husband and son end up laughing as they realise that yet again she has blown them both out of the water.

This year, she'd made a pop up card, where inside a heart sprang out of a 3D I love you. All the colours are hand-painted and the words and heart create beautiful shadows. Their cards are always my favourite part of my birthday and I love that I now have so many years' worth of them. The weather was foul on the actual day, so we met my dad for breakfast, pottered around the old bit of town (the bit you'd go to if you're not buying practical things) and then the garden centre, and later that afternoon, my parents came over for cake once our children were home from school. It was a really lovely day and made me feel sometimes the simplest birthdays can be nicest. Also, my husband asked a local cafe to make a birthday mocha cake that's both gluten-free (me) and vegan (daughter) and it was one of the best I've ever tasted - the effect of a cake to make a day perfect can't be underestimated. Which reminds me of the time several years ago when we were considering moving to Winchelsea, only to return to find the village shop had stopped serving fresh cake and, despite it still being the most glorious place to live, we realised the cake had been the main pull for us and neither of us wanted to move anymore.

Wishing you a happy week,
Florence x

* Frustratingly true - when repainting the mud wall I first used Little Greene's Pearl Colour Dark and that was too minty in the afternoon sun for my purposes, so I then had to tape everything up again and repaint it in Little Greene's Normandy Grey, which is the sage green you can see in the photos above. What's troublesome about that, is that my painting had been perfect the first time and a little less so the next time (not much, but enough to make me feel like I want a framed picture of the first attempt even though the colour wasn't right).

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

An Uncertain Trip Around the World

The last time I used the Scrappy Trip Around the World Pattern was in 2013 when I made a Liberty print dog bed for Nell (do click through if you want to see the extreme testing process she subjected that bed to. Oddly, it ended up being the only bed that was truly indestructible when she was a puppy and, despite her best efforts, all those lines of quilting made it freakishly strong. Looking back at this makes me realised what a semi-civilised little creature she's become - she would never try to eat her own bed now).

The eagle-eyed will be relieved to know these finished blocks aren't actually sewn together yet, but it gives you an idea of the World Tour I'm on right now. If I were to send you a postcard at this point, it would probably say that I'm not entirely sure I like the place I've ended up in - I've struggled with this palette a lot, which is a mixture of linens, striped linens and Tana lawn. I chose them because I thought they'd work in the room where I want the quilt to live, which has lots of different shades of yellow and mustard in it but somehow doesn't feel like a room with lots of colour (the colours seem to register as neutrals), so when I chose the fabrics for this I went for far plainer things than I'd ever usually choose for a quilt...which I'm now finding rather dull to sew with. I'd imagined the texture of the linens would soften it all and make it feel like fun to work with, but I'm not sure they've actually had that effect on me.

I'm finding it hard to separate the dullness of the sewing process with whether I actually like it as a quilt. My husband and daughter love it, but I'm finding it more masculine than I'd intended and I'm not sure how to soften it - here a few blocks laid out on the sofa where it will live. 

Despite my making a quilt for this room, it isn't currently quiltless...it's just full of the wrong quilt. I think I've talked before about how my husband favours using the bright red Charlotte Barlett quilt (ignoring that it was made as a garden quilt) claiming it's more comfortable to lie under than any other quilt, but its brightness has the effect of making me feel I've had the colour equivalent of a slap around the face with a wet kipper every time I walk into the room and, even after a few years of seeing it on the sofa, my eyes never seem to adjust to how garish it looks against cream walls.

In the planning stages of this quilt, I realised if my husband were to accept a replacement, it would have to be so irresistibly snuggly that the red quilt would begin to seem almost unbearably scratchy and cold by comparison. Installing a layer sandpaper and ice packs would be one strategy, but ideally I wanted to achieve this feat without causing him discomfort or sabotaging the red quilt for garden use (although the ice packs could totally work in the event of a heatwave).

Just before Christmas, I was ordering some things from Billow Fabrics and decided to put a fat quarter of sherpa fleece in my bag, wondering if it might be suitable as a quilt backing. When it arrived, I found that it wasn't just suitable, but was actually the fabric of dreams. It's incredibly soft and fluid, with very little bulk, but somehow feels spectacularly sumptuous. I feel almost certain that if there is a fabric that can tempt my husband into abandoning the red quilt, it is this one.

But when I went order some more I found it had all gone and didn't seem to exist elsewhere in the UK - if you wish to create a visual image to represent the inner workings of my head on discovering that, just picture The Scream and you're pretty much there. I got in touch with Jenny and found she hadn't been intending to get any more in stock until next Christmas (more Edvard!), but she very kindly offered to order a roll in for me so I could buy some without waiting all year. In case you're wondering, she did this without my relaying the tale of my husband's improper use of the garden quilt or my conveying any profound desperation in the email - it was just exceptional customer service - I was so happy!

I'm imagining using it without any batting, as I think the sherpa will fulfil the purposes of batting and backing in one, which makes it extremely cost-effective. I'm not sure what it's going to be like to work with in terms of quilting - I worry it may be a little eel-like, but I'll report back. Either way, at this point, I'm very excited about it! Does anyone know how much cuddle fabrics shrink? Should I wash it beforehand, or will it be fine to wash afterwards with just a normal amount of welcome quiltcrinkle occurring?

If you haven't come across Billow Fabrics before, do go and take a look - they have lots of lovely linens (including Liberty linen, which I've only just noticed!), a wide variety of cuddle fabrics, gloriously coloured wool felts, and Liberty fabrics (which was probably what I was ordering when I spotted the sherpa).

So, this is currently what's on my design wall. Just getting to this point has taken me forever...but maybe that's because I had the remains of flu while sewing these blocks, so was sewing a line and then resting, sewing a line and then resting - I didn't remember this being a pattern that takes long to come together. I can't decide if I love it or am just a bit meh about it...if it ends up being the latter then I may be posting about it in a few years time and, as with the red quilt, trying to make a replacement for it, but finding nothing can compete with the softness of the sherpa fleece and therefore being stuck with it forever...

Finishing all the uncertainty with a flu update: nearly three and a half weeks later, I still have a cough, but I think I may finally be nearly better! I started the new week feeling really quite perky, evidenced by cleaning bathrooms and vacuuming before 9am! Extraordinary scenes with or without the remains of flu in my case.

Wishing you a happy week,
Florence x

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Public Quilt Photography

I rarely venture into public places to photograph quilts for my blog - I've always tended to be more of a covert, indoor sort of quilt photographer; my own back garden or my parents' house reserved for those times when I've wanted to go wild and step my location up a level (I wonder if you realised you were experiencing the deluxe option on those occasions?).

Writing my book forced me to venture outside, and I found my eyes started to hone in on possible photoshoot locations: old barn doors with peeling paint work, drystone walls, or weathered gate posts, the sight of one appearing like a mirage in the distance causing me to up my pace and race toward it (some would say scuttle, but it's not the style of the dash that's important). I hadn't imagined venturing out with a quilt after my book was finished though, yet it seems a switch has flipped within me, and I've unwittingly joined the league of quilters who take their quilts out into the wild to photograph them. On country walks, I now notice an attractive wall and feel a yearning to bring a quilt back next time to drape over it - possibly a relatively normal thing within our community, but I suspect a distinctly odd thing within the context of the wider world.

Despite my husband being a relaxed accomplice in this activity and our route being largely unpopulated except for sheep, I felt oddly self-conscious - as though I were a burglar stealing photos. If someone was sighted in the distance, I felt compelled to stuff the quilt hastily back into the rucksack and then loiter until the person had passed (possibly worse than just being the oddball taking photos of a quilt - when you're waiting to do something until someone has gone, it is almost impossible not to look shifty).

I suspect it may all feel more normal in summer when a picnic blanket is a legitimate thing to take on a walk, but as there was still snow on the ground in the more shaded places on this walk in January, it would have been hard to carry off...

The photo below is from the same walk - unlike the quilt, Nell could not be packed away into a rucksack and her love of wallowing in mud means people often actually gasp when they see her. It's lovely though, as people only ever seem to gasp in delight, rather than revulsion, and I love seeing how much people love dogs and accept their odd ways. I sometimes wonder where the people are who don't like dogs (so essentially, where was I, pre-Nell? For newer readers, I haven't always loved dogs - you can read about how Nell ended up coming to live with us here). Maybe they're not on muddy walks in the country, but are more pavement-dwelling...

Below is a photo from another walk that feels worth including while on the subject. She is like a hybrid animal, halfway between a dog and a pig, dropping to her stomach to commando crawl through mud the moment she sees it. Initially, I feel the pain of knowing how hard it's going to be to clean her when we get home, but once I've resigned myself to that, it's the most joyful thing to watch. 

For reference, this is what she looks like before she's found a patch of mud. I didn't know it was possible to feel so much love for a creature's jowls, but this photo fills me with fondness for her saggy cheeks.

One day, I might undertake some less covert quilt photography as a social experiment to discover if quilts could actually cause strangers to come and chat in the same way that Nell does...I don't imagine the world loves quilts quite as much as dogs, but who knows what surprises might be in store. Anyway, back to the quilt.

You might remember that I hand-pieced the quilt and wrote a tutorial for making one here. At that point, I hadn't quilted it though. Quilting has never been my strong-point - while I feel like a confident piecer, when it comes to quilting I still feel like a beginner. I'd always imagined my quilting skills would improve with each quilt, but if anything they seem to get worse - I fail to see the quilting pattern that will take the piecing to a new level and lack the skills to execute my quilting with any kind of style, so I consulted Instagram to see if people who have more prowess in this area could help me.

Imagine putting such a question out there and being told by a friend who lives a few streets away that she's written a book exclusively about hexagons, including ways to quilt them, and that she'll pop over the next day to drop it in for you? That actually happened to me, in the form of Carolyn, who has actually written over a dozen books, which is possibly why I'm not familiar with all of them.

This quilting pattern from her book, Hexagon Happenings, was the one that jumped out at us. I don't have any interspersing triangles in my quilt, but we decided I could use the pattern on the hexagons alone.

While Carolyn was here, I asked which thread colour she'd use for the quilting. I'd been expecting her to say something like grey or dark blue, which were the only colours I could imagine sinking in to so many differently coloured prints, but she surprised me by taking an olive green from my thread rack. The minute she laid the thread across the fabrics though, I could see how well it went with them. It didn't blend away, but it seemed to stand out in a way that made the fabrics look even more lovely. For me, it was a fairly mind-blowing moment and it's caused me to look at thread colour slightly differently since, feeling that these details are all things that can be lovely and celebrated in their own right - they don't have to be something that blends away (if you ever get the chance to take a class with Carolyn, leap at it!I feel sure it's these tiny things that are actually the game changers).

With a quilting pattern and a thread colour decided, Carolyn left me to my own devices, and I had the rare experience of diving into something decisively, feeling sure of my choices. The template in Carolyn's book was for a different size of hexagon, so I redrew it on my computer (it would probably be quicker to just mess around with scaling up by different percentages on a photocopier, but I love that kind of laptop work, so was happy to redraw them) and then made a template using a sheet of plastic - it was painstaking work and took a few hours, during which time I variously felt like a surgeon and a psychopath to be brandishing a scalpel so intensely. It turned my head inside-out deciding which bits of plastic to leave joined so that the template would hold together even once the quilting lines had been cut out, but I eventually got there and was pretty pleased with my work!

I transferred the lines onto the quilt about three columns at a time using a Sewline pencil filled with ceramic leads. I switched between leads to mark the fabric, using a mixture of pink, white and green - whichever showed up best on the fabric. The action of the quilt rubbing against itself seemed to remove the lines at just the right moment and I needed to do very little work to remove them, but equally they stayed long enough for me to quilt over them. They don't rub off everything though, so it's worth exercising some caution and testing them on your fabric first if you're going to use them.

I then played around with free-motioning the design on some offcuts, which was fairly disastrous, so in the end I kept the feed dogs raised and used a regular foot (my machine has integrated dual feed, so I don't need a separate walking foot). For such a twisty-turny pattern, it actually worked surprisingly well and, incredibly, I also really enjoyed doing it (incredibly because I often find machine sewing quite dull, as I don't like the way it ties me to one location).

I'm now going to put on my boasting hat, so brace yourself. I think such a thing is meant to be reserved for the arrival of grandchildren, but I feel compelled to put it on for my first-born nicely quilted quilt, and say that I think I might have gone from utterly useless to pro in one quilt under Carolyn's expert tuition. If I never manage to quilt anything as nicely again, I'm fine with that, because this can be my one shining example of Quilting That Actually Looked Good. I love everything about it - I like how it's softened the columns of hexagons; how it's more complex than anything I've done before; how there aren't too many obvious mistakes; and how the olive green thread looks like a perfect but unexpected choice.

Here's another photo of it from a different angle.

It should be said at this point that I somehow messed up my binding - I don't know how, as I've never done this before, but it's slightly wider on the back than the front, which drives me nuts and I think I may have to unpick it and redo it - you'll note that the boasting hat has now been taken off: pride, fall. Whatever. (As an aside, isn't pride comes before the fall the most loathsome expression - it's the kind of saying that sucks the joy out of life. I'm pretty sure I can remember Rachel Lynde saying it in Anne of Green Gables and it feeling like a prime example of what a sourpuss she was, although I think she eventually redeemed herself. I would never think of that expression in relation to anyone else, so I'm unsure why I allowed Rachel Lyndeishness to pop into my head for myself just then).

This is my favourite photo of my quilt, taken as a gust of wind made it billow out, but thankfully it was spared from the mud patch below.

On flu-recovery update: I was off the sofa and had two days where I returned to normal day-to-day activities, which was really lovely, but I now have an annoying cough and feel out of breath doing even the simplest things, as well as looking like someone has sucked all the colour out of my cheeks and replaced it with something grey. Will I ever be well and look normal again, I wonder? A friend left a stash of treats on my doorstep to aid recovery and thankfully I've found I've been able to nibble on them without having to use a nebuliser though. Phew.

Do let me know your thoughts on public quilt photography, and also dogs vs quilts if you have any insight with the general non-quilting public, or your own thoughts on the matter.

Florence x

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Thoughts around Paperclips

You may be forgiven for wondering if you've stumbled upon the Country File blog - this little face was the first thing that leapt out at me when I went into my folder to find a photograph to illustrate this post - it was taken a few weeks ago on a walk with my husband, but bears no real relevance to what follows (especially as it exists outside).

Today marks the first day since the 10th February that I've been outside, having been bedbound, or more lately sofabound, for ten whole days with flu. I slept through the first three days and four nights, only waking to drink water and shiver dramatically with audibly chattering teeth. On the fourth day, I managed to stay awake for longer than five minutes and lay in bed doing nothing other than thinking r e a l l y  s l o w l y about things like how they get the plastic coating onto paperclips (my main consideration was how they coated them with no blobs or missed bits, or whether the coating was actually a pre-formed tube that was carefully slid onto each paperclip). I then moved on to thinking about how they get the led into pencils. Thoughts like these entertained me for at least twenty-four hours and were interspersed regularly with the conviction: I'm going to look this up on my phone and find a video that shows how it's done once I'm well enough to hold my phone.

On the fifth day, when I was well enough to hold a phone, I realised I'd enjoyed not holding one so much that I didn't want to start again, and reached instead for my Kindle, where I spent the next five days devouring books in-between extended catnaps. Here's what I read:

History of Wolves, by Emily Fridlund - this book was incredibly beautifully written - there were certain sentences that made me stop and reread them over and over for how perfectly formed they were, my favourite being 'Winter collapsed on us this year. It knelt down, exhausted, and stayed.' But actually, as a novel, I didn't really enjoy it - the motivations of the characters felt too exhaustingly far from a place I could relate to in order to warm to any of them and the bleak confusion of it all matched my fluey-state and made the story feel like part of a bad dream (this was shortlisted for The Man Booker in 2017, so others clearly felt differently).

Next, I read Life Drawing, by Robin Black, a recommendation from my dad, who'd read an old review of it in the Guardian online and texted to say he thought I'd like it. I really love books where a good part of the narrative is based around the character's creative process (I loved Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere for this, and Anita Amirrezvani's The Blood of Flowers did it excellently too). Life Drawing centres around painting, but for some reason that part of the book didn't engage me in the way I'd hoped, although I did enjoy it generally and the last quarter was a page turner.

My next choice was Convenience Store Woman by Murata Sayaka, the much talked-about translation set in a Japanese convenience store. It's a quirky story that makes some interesting comments about life and the way we are as human beings, and I liked the central character who struggles to fit in with society's expectations, but found a storyline with a co-worker who went to live with her felt implausible, and ultimately it stole away some of the book's credibility for me.

I then read half of two different books, and gave up on both of them, so they'll remain nameless, but at this point, I was feeling I'd had only one true hit and several misses and semi-misses and should avoid choosing any more books, but then the next one was a corker. The moment I started reading Natalie Hart's Pieces of Me, I sank into the writing and knew I wanted to stay there for longer than the pages of the book would allow. It's a love story set between Iraq and America and shows the effect war can have on the psyche of those who fight in them.

Next came Meg Wolitzer's The Female Persuasion, which I chose because it came really high on the Readers Choice Awards 2018 on Goodreads. The overarching theme (as you might imagine from the title) is feminism, which is unpicked and dissected through a myriad of different storylines within the book, but the bit that really carried me away are the wonderful characters Meg creates, so richly drawn that I felt I knew them. She also writes brilliantly about being young and idealistic and trying to discover who you are. I've added several of her other titles to my 'To read' list - have you read any of them, and do you have any favourites?

Finally, on day nine of my extended stay in bed, I started reading The Leavers by Lisa Ko, which I'm yet to finish, but it's excellent so far and centres around the life of an illegal immigrant and her child.

In between all that reading, I also watched some good things on television. On the recommendation of a friend, my daughter and I watched the BBC three-part series of Andrea Levy's The Long Song, which was excellent, if disturbing (it centres around slavery in Jamaica). We also tore through the new Amazon Prime series, New Amsterdam, which is set in a New York hospital (think Grey's Anatomy, but better), and we're enjoying watching each episode of Cold Feet as it arrives (Monday evenings). 

I picked my husband up from dropping his car in at the garage this morning at 8am and we stopped in at a nearby supermarket to do some food shopping. It felt quite odd to be out in the world and by the time we arrived home forty minutes later, I felt ready for another lie down. I'm hoping to have the energy to see if a sewing needle weighs too heavily in my hand this evening...

As a flu-related footnote, I can tell you that keeping one's skin in a stable environment (with none of the indoors/outdoors shenanigans that normal life requires) does amazing things and it feels weirdly smooth and seems to require no moisturisation or any of the usual things it cries out for - if only I could stay indoors forever. The last time I had flu this bad was at the turn of the millennium when it stayed for three weeks - I remember dragging myself into work half-delirious several times (I worked for a paper and regularly started my shift at 4am and am sure I nearly died on a London bus going into work early one January morning), but being sent home each time, and there too sleeping through several entire days...it took me weeks to feel normal again, but when I finally did, I found that all the extra sleep left me feeling super-charged, so I'm excited to get to that point again...

I'm also relieved to have started reading again as I didn't read a single book for the whole of January, which felt like an odd thing indeed. What are you reading or watching at the moment? 

Wishing you a lovely week, 
Florence x

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

The Very Best of Shelves

In my last post, I briefly mentioned 'the very best of shelves' and, probably lured by the mention of plastic golden retrievers, there was a request from Caroline to see it. So, here it is, along with a full inventory of the area, and a backstory for each item. Note that some of the items I consider to be an integral part of the shelf's contents, are too big to fit on the actual shelf.
  • Beginning at the very left of the above photo, there's a black Rifle Paper tin, full of recipe cards. Only one of those recipe cards has ever been filled in, but I like to keep it on my desk as one day I might add to them and it's good to have some untapped potential sitting in front of me. Also, I like the pattern on the outside, so there's really no pressure over whether my potential in this department is ever unleashed. Win win. 
  • Resting on top is a pink rag-paper envelope, complete with gold hand-printed patterning and glorious tassel. I bought this in a shop in Rye nearly a decade ago (I think the shop was called The Paper Place and it was a real treasure trove). I'd intended to give it to someone in the form of gift packaging, but several years on I still haven't been able to part with it, so I think we can probably call this mine now. 
  • In front of the tin is a Liberty print postcard. I rarely buy fabric online from Liberty as they only sell it in hard-to-afford one metre cuts (they sell in 1/2 metres in-store), but just occasionally there's a need for it, and I'm always excited imagining which postcard might be included with my parcel, although last time there wasn't one and I was crestfallen. This one (above) was a real joy though as it's one of my favourite prints.
  • Moving onto the actual shelf, this section is like a miniature memorial garden of EPP rosettes that didn't make the cut. Front left is a rejected centre to this piece, while back right is the sun-bleached rosette that didn't make it into this piece
  • The wooden doll was a gift from my mum a few years ago - it has a slot cut in it so bias binding can be wrapped around it for storage, but I don't actually have any binding that needs storing due to being an ill-prepared sort of creature who makes binding up several days after I first needed it, but I love the doll all the same so it lives on the shelf. If you do have binding that needs storing, then you have admiration and you can find your own Binding Baby storage here
  • Behind that is the stretch limo of postcards (fitting for the very best of shelves) featuring dresses on lovely ladies, from the Orla Kiely exhibition at The Fashion & Textiles Museum. A friend and I took our daughters there for an afternoon and the postcard is a memory of a lovely day and a souvenir too, as Orla Kiely has sadly since gone into administration. 
  • My children created this Lego sewing machine for me as a Christmas gift back in 2010. It came in a handmade box with step-by-step instructions on how to put it together and nearly made me cry with its loveliness. It is one of my most treasured possessions. 
  • The tiny wooden pig has kept me company since I was four years old. I was, and still am, quite crazy for pigs and it's their lovely faces that caused me to stop eating sausages (and all other meat) in my first year at primary school. I decorated the walls of the bedroom I shared with my sister with pig posters and cards, and on outings wore a woollen cross-body handbag with a piglet knitted onto the front. The tiny wooden pig was nestled inside that bag, amongst a collection of boiled sweets that slid out of their wrappers during a holiday in Greece - I can still remember the trauma of realising the wool had been made sticky and sugary; the bag never felt as nice after that and I always dreaded putting my hand in to get something, when once it had been such a delight...but either way, the wooden pig survived its time in the woollen pigsty unscathed). 

The plastic golden retrievers are now in view, but I'm working up to them in order, so don't skip ahead in the excitement! 
  • This is just one of the many conkers my son has given me over the years, usually with a characterful face drawn on. This one has the wondrous addition of small fangs and is probably about six years old now. My very favourite one, which looked like a small baby, I carried around in my handbag for years until it disintegrated, so I'm enjoying this conker while I still can.
  • I bought the EPP printing blocks as a photo prop for my book and liked them so much they made their way onto the shelf. And as I've linked to everything else I've mentioned, here's a link to my book šŸ¤—!
  • The small blue business card bearing a rabbit (just in view) was sent with an order from Chloe Giordano's lovely shop - do go and have a look - her embroideries are divine. I've bought several of her cards and they always feel like a real treat to send to people. I also had one framed as a Christmas gift for my mum. (I love beautiful business cards - the one on display changes fairly frequently, but this one is a favourite). 
  • Finally, yes finally, we arrive at the plastic golden retrievers! The items that truly make this the very best of shelves. My husband bought the larger one for me while passing through Fenwicks' toy department. I don't think he really expected me to treasure it in the way that I have, but I loved this curious gift and liked imaging what might have been going through his head when he chose it for me. I still haven't quite worked that one out, but noting its success, a few years later he bought me a golden retriever puppy to go alongside it. His mission is now to buy curiosities that will be considered special enough to go on the the shelf. I'm not sure how he could beat this offering though. If Marie Kondo were to put this plastic duo in front of me and say 'Florence, do these dogs spark joy in you?', I would say 'Yes, Marie, joy by the bucketload,' and put them straight back on the shelf. 
  • You may have noticed the die-cast Mini just peeping into shot. Cars don't feature heavily in my thoughts, but I do love very small ones with beautiful design features - pastel-coloured Nissan Figaro, tiny Fiat 500s, old Morris Minors (we had two in succession when I was growing up - one of which had a rusty hole in the floor covered with a mat to stop the air rushing in around my father's feet as he drove, and both of which made a cosy whining noise as they turned into our drive, which we called its 'home-time noise' as it never happened at any other time - it must have been something about the speed of the engine and the angle of the turn that produced the sound. We then got our first modern car, an Alfa Sud, another awesome small car, which I remember us all being astounded by because it had a push up sunroof and went a LOT faster than the Morris). As an adult, I've always loved Minis for the position of the headlamps, which look like eyes, and the beautiful round dials inside, so this die-cast one was a gift from my husband a few birthdays ago (I think he always buys this type of gift as a little extra or a stocking filler, not realising that they're actually the main event). 
  • The other printer's block letters were a gift from my sister and they can be a bit of a mystery as most people think they read if, which I quite like as 'if' is a word that has so much possibility, but actually its our initials: Ian and Florence. 
  • Moving along the shelf, we come to this appliquĆ©d version of me, beside the doll version of me, which is all very me-centric. I first bought one of these handmade dolls as a gift for my sister - her one looked just like her, in that it had blonde hair instead of brown - and I liked it so much that my husband bought a dark-haired version for my birthday. It arrived with this gorgeous little panel with my name stitched on! They're made by Just So Sara - do take a look at her shop if you'd like your own me-centric doll. 
  • Hidden behind the doll (who is clearly far more adventurous when it comes to hair accessories and spends longer in the gym...which wouldn't be hard as I don't spend any time in it), is what my daughter and I like to call 'the stolen tin'. This was a gift given to my daughter by my mum years ago, but we later agreed that I appreciated it far more than she did, so would become its caretaker. Here was the conversation we had while tidying her room together one day that enabled the theft: Do you really love that tin? - Erm, yeah, it's nice - Just nice? - Mmm, yeah, it's okay - Oh, because I actually reeeealllly love it - Do you? - Yes, I think I like it a lot more than you do. Do you want me to have it for you? - Okay, you can look after it then). It's now filled with carefully cut fabric flowers ready to appliquĆ© in an emergency, which makes me sound like the kind of person who would have pre-made bias binding to hand after all, doesn't it! Also the kind of person who shamelessly steals things from her daughter's bedroom...don't worry, I think badly of me too.
  • Moving onto the desk, we have a beautiful turquoise tin that, when turned, plays music and the horses go around the merry-go-round - a gift from my mum. I really love music boxes and this one feels extra special as she bought a matching one for my sister, who is my merry-go-round riding companion in life (literally - as adults we've leapt on them together in Spain, France, Russia, and around the UK)
  • Below that, a Diptique candle with a scent called Baies, a gift from my sister after we'd been to one of her scans while she was pregnant. It's entirely coincidental that the name of the candle is one letter short of the word 'babies', but I always read it that way as it felt so in keeping with the day. It smells amazing, by the way, although nothing like babies.
  • On top of the candle sits a tiny swatch of Liberty silk that Alice Caroline included with an order. It shows barely any of the print, but the exquisite turquoise background and the tiniest bit of petal creeping in make this one of my favourite fabrics ever, so the swatch lives in the shelf-overflow area (sadly, they didn't have a larger piece for me to buy). 
You may have noticed one limitation with the shelf, and that's that it's just below the point where the roof begins to slope, so all shelf items are limited to being about 5" tall, but I quite like the challenge of that. The items on the shelf get shuffled and edited quite frequently, but I'm actually going to put a second shelf up next to it to make one long shelf, and although bigger isn't always better, I have hopes that it may become the very best of the very best of shelves.

Thanks so much to Caroline for inspiring this post. 

Florence x
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