Tag Archives: house and garden

Steampunked sewing

The sewing room is ready to reveal.  The last boxes were unpacked a couple of weeks ago. All the fabric has been sorted, measured and catalogued.  All paper patterns have been scanned to Evernote ready for tagging, and then packed into easily accessible boxes.  Even the new blinds have been fitted.  I just need a bin, an ironing board and iron specifically for that room, and a full length mirror.

As the first thing I’m going to be making is curtains, and I’ve got all of the missing items in other parts of the house, I’d say I’m good to go!

I need to take some photos so I can share with you, but till then I’ve got quick snaps of a lovely sewing room warming present the husband bought me last week from Pipecreative in Hebden Bridge.

I’m sure the vintage sewing machine purists will be up in arms about this but I absolutely adore it!

A Steampunked sewing machine.  A Jones, no less.  It couldn’t be more appropriate!

The owner was highly amused that he was selling a Jones sewing machine lamp to Mrs Jones to go in her sewing room.  He didn’t believe us at first, and double checked the Mister’s bank card when taking payment.

It’s totally bonkers in the best possible way.

Sitting proudly on the windowsill to the side of my sewing table, it’s straight in your eyeline as you enter the sewing room. It makes me smile every time I walk in there.

My hubby buys the absolute best presents.  I’m one very lucky lady!

Hand made frocks and new houses

I just wanted to say a big thank you to all who have commented on the last couple of posts.

I read your comments to Miss B and she was so genuinely touched by the kindness of your words that it filled my heart with joy.  You guys are the best and have done such a Very Good Thing for one small girl.


I am eternally grateful.

Thanks also for your kind words about the new house.  We’ve been here just over a week and it feels like home.  We have so much more space to breathe, and the proximity to family and the park for walks and play has improved our quality of life no end.

As soon as my trades are available the work begins on making it home.  I need plug sockets and coving (crown moulding) before I can start to decorate.  Some of the decorating will be done by the decorator but I’ll be doing some of it myself.

If I can get the sewing room and office decorated and unpacked, that’s the worst of it done. I also need the sewing room ready so I can get to work on the blinds and curtains we need for each room.   So. Many. Blinds!

This is what the sewing room looks like today!


The wallpaper is depressing, and we’ve lots of stuff that needs to go to other rooms, but….it’s going to be AWESOME!

Wood floors, view over the front garden and masses of space.  I’ll have a table for my sewing machines, a custom height cutting table and plenty of storage for all my patterns, books, notions and fabric.

Fingers crossed I can get to it fairly quickly once the kids go back to school in September. Until then we are just chillin’ and enjoying usually lovely weather for this part of the world.


Home sweet home


After a years of searching, 2 failed house purchases, and over 4 months of wrangling on this purchase, we are, finally, in our new home.

We have a lot to do, and I’m going to have fun making this place into a wonderful home for our family.

For now…I’ve a million boxes to unpack and an awful lot of cleaning to do!  Not cool, but worth it.

Thanks to everyone for your kind wishes over the past few weeks, and to the grandparents for wrangling two very excited small peeps over the removal weekend.

This quick and blurry snap was taken on Sunday evening whilst we walked the short path from our front door to our favourite park.  If a picture tells a thousand words, this is why we moved.


Oh….and a separate sewing room 😉

6 top tips for buying a house


As you’ll probably remember, we are currently searching for a new home.  Folks, I can tell you this isn’t as easy as it sounds, and we’ve spent the last month or so diligently searching house selling websites and viewing houses old and new.  We travelled 3 counties looking at show homes, and used up all our grandparent babysitting privileges (thanks Nana, Grandad and Grandma!)

Whilst we still haven’t made a decision (although I think we’re getting close) I thought I’d share my 6 top tips for the diligent house buyer.stock-photo-new-detached-house-with-garage-2628596151.  Know what you’re looking for

We have a very, very clear list of what we need this new house to do.

  • We need a dedicated office space for our fledgling business.  Running it on one side of the kitchen table isn’t the most ideal solution for us at the moment.
  • We need a decent sized garden for the kids to play in.
  • We need a garage and a double driveway.  The husbands old banger is parked on the drive all week.  It would be good to tuck it into a garage and leave the drive free for me and visitors.  A larger driveway will also give the kids a safe place for scooters and bikes.
  • A large dining kitchen is a must.  I love having family and friends round and we always congregate in the kitchen.  I’ve also added a utility room to the list.  Not only does it provide much needed storage and keep the laundry out of the kitchen, but when we’re entertaining it’s a useful space to stash plates and glasses out of sight.
  • A sewing room is also on the list.  Not only for me (but seriously….a sewing room! Squeeeee!), but also for the sanity of everyone else in the house who is currently tripping over fabric, patterns, half finished quilts and bags of yarn.

With this list in hand, every time we look at a property we know before we even view it that it has the potential to work for us or not.  If it doesn’t, then we don’t view it.  Why waste everyones time?

2.  Be realistic about your budget

This should go without saying, but I’m going to say it again.

  • Set a budget.
  • Stick to it.

No ifs, buts or maybes.  If you’ve set your budget at £100K…then £100k it is.  Not £110K. Not even £101k.  Because once you break that barrier even a little bit, it’s a slippery slope to finding yourself making an offer that will eventually break you.

And whilst we’re on that topic…just because you can borrow £200k, doesn’t mean you should.  Interest rates in the UK are at an all time low, which means there’s only one way they can go.  People lose their jobs, or have babies, or need to take time off work for other things.

Don’t, whatever you do, take it to the max.  Give yourself some wiggle room.  You’ll sleep easier at night.

3.  View everything that meets your criteria

If it ticks the boxes, go and have a look-see.  It might be the one. It might be awful. You won’t know just by looking at photos and floor plans.  Estate agents are really good at taking deceptive photos!  Just sayin’!

4.  Location, location, location

We came so close to buying a house a couple of weeks ago.  It was lovely.  It ticked all the boxes on our list.  It was spacious and pretty and, as it was brand new, would need nothing doing to it except new curtains.

Except….it was the other side of town from the kid’s school and would add 40mins to an hour every day to my school run.

It’s hard enough to get them to school on time living as close as we do (they don’t do mornings…neither do I).  But I began to imagine that extra stress in the mornings and we walked away.

It was hard.  It was totally the right thing to do.

5.  Check out your builder

Many new build houses these days are sold as leasehold.  Some builders have a clause in their contracts which stipulate that at some point in the future, when you move on and sell the house you’re buying from them, you’ll need to pay them 1.5% of the SELLING PRICE to get them to change the name of the leasehold document.

I thought Dick Turpin wore a mask!

6.  If it doesn’t work…it doesn’t work

Every couple of weeks for the last 8 years or so, Hubby and I have, for one reason or another (usually a reason involving wine or cake) driven past the most beautiful house.  Every time we have sighed wistfully and whispered “one day” to each other.

Well, dreams do come true and on Friday we viewed The Dream House.  I walked up the flower-banked path to the front door in trepidation.  Surely after all this time we couldn’t be disappointed.

We weren’t.

Built in the 1880’s its a behemoth of a house.  Red brick, stone mullions, carved brickwork. Huge rooms, 12ft high ceilings, a hand-crafted kitchen.

In need of some TLC, but not massive renovations.

Just lovely.

We walked back to the car with smiles on our faces.  It was the one.

Except…it only has 2meg of broadband.  Our business is run solely online.  2 meg of broadband won’t support our business. At the moment we have 150 meg. Without our business…we can’t afford the house.  Many hours of searching online and several telephone calls later we’d exhausted all the possibilities.  Nobody is running superfast fibre broadband to that house.

It’s a deal breaker.  We are walking away.  It’s the right thing to do.


So…there are my top 5 tips from the house hunting coalface. We are still looking. We have a very short shortlist.  Hopefully by the time the kids return to school we’ll have made a decision.  We’re waiting for one more showhouse to be finished so we can include or discount it and then we’ll put our money where our mouth is. Dependent on our decision we’ll either be in our new home before Christmas or by this time next year.

Exciting times!   If more than a little exhausting.

ps…all photos are stock images from Shutterstock and not any that we’ve actually viewed.

Antiquing v. Gardening

Renovations have come to a grinding halt Chez Stitches.

My poor cousin/builder has had a grim time of it recently.  Firstly the tenants in his house absolutely destroyed it before they were, finally, evicted.  Understandably his number one priority is cleaning up a godawful mess and repairing the damage.

Then he managed to drop his motorbike at speed.  Thankfully he was thrown clear before the bike wrapped itself around a tree.  Small mercies and all that.

He’s fine but obviously otherwise engaged for a little while.

So on Saturday, as it was sunny, I figured it was time we started to tackle the weeds in the front garden. They were threatening some sort of military coup on the actual plants.  The Little Shop of Horrors wanted Audrey Jr back.

The husband had other ideas.  He wanted to go antiquing for tables for the sitting room.

Hmmmmmm….tough call!  😉

Grubbing around in the dirt…..or lunch and antiques.

You know which one won. This is what we scored.


First up, a vintage mixing bowl.  My old one of these had developed a nasty crack so needed to be replaced.   If you buy these in the fancy vintage shops they can cost you upwards of £45, but GB Antiques in Lancaster has a kitchenalia stall that always has a great selection at reasonable prices.  This is a big one and only cost £14.  Result!

Next a little telephone table that will sit on one side of the big sofa.


This is great little piece that needs just a little TLC – hello chalk paint – to really bring it to life.



And last but by no means least is the piece that set my heart beating just a little faster and which Hubby wouldn’t let me leave behind.  Love that man!

IMG_0923 IMG_0920 Singer_3

This beautiful table just begged to be brought home.  She now sits on the other side of the sofa from the wee table above, and is just the perfect piece for the sitting room. She makes me very happy indeed.

We are so close to having this room done.  I’m ordering the bookcases this week, need to remake the roman blind (the interlining has shrunk and pulled it all out of shape), paint the mirror to tone down the garish gold, and hang some picture.

It’s going to be lovely!

Apologies for the slightly blurry photos.  Mr was insisting I hurry so he could get the furniture in place before we had to dash out to collect the kids!  Not an unreasonable request, I suppose. 😉

Continuous zip…the unsung hero of home sewn soft furnishing

For quite a while now I’ve been longing for some enormous cushions for our sofas. The kind you can all snuggle into on movie night.  Which can be thrown on the floor for small peeps to lie on.  Which make a comfy place for you to rest your head for a quiet nap.  Our 20″ cushions really weren’t cutting it, so when I saw the 26″ Inner cushion pad at Ikea, I snapped up 4 of them without hesitation.


I’d also been struggling to find some fabric which would co-ordinate with the existing curtains, was tough enough to stand up to family life, but which wasn’t so expensive that I’d have hissy fits every time a child went within 500 yards of it.  Ikea came to the rescue with their Lenda fabric @ £4 a metre.


So far so good.  At this point I’d only spent £28 on the cushion pads and 3 metres of fabric. I just needed thread and zips.  But 26 ” zips retail at about £2.70 more or less. That’s £10.80 for the 4 zips…about 40% of the cost of the pads and fabric.  I’m sorry…I’m not falling for that.

Enter the old soft-furnishers favourite secret….continuous zip.


You buy it off the roll in metres.  It’s about a £1.00 a metre.


The little packs of sliders are about £1.30. They are really easy to attach…this video shows it very clearly.

So thanks to our good friend the continuous zip, I kept the cost down to about £8.50 per cushion and now we can squish on the sofas to our hearts content.


Result!  Now I really must do something about the covers on those smaller cushions. 😉


I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth…I’m just having new floors fitted throughout the ground floor and the fireplace installed.


Our home looks like a building site…of course…and all other fun stuff is on the sidelines until next week when we’ll have the sitting room and kitchen looking like we live here again.


I can’t wait.

And then I’ll be back with a couple of new makes and a review.

See you on the other side!

Stripping and other activities!

Lord knows what kind of hits I’ll get with a title like that, but it sums up the activity Chez Stitches this week.

After quite a lengthy hiatus since the rewire, we are finally in a position to commence some work that actually feels like we’re making a start on the renovations.

This week it’s all about getting the wallpaper off.

Unfortunately I can’t wield a stripping knife at the moment due to a ridiculous problem with my neck and shoulder for which I’m awaiting physio.  But when I was asking around to find someone to come and do the work for me, Ma and her bestie Pauline volunteered.

Now, I’m not good at accepting help at the best of time, but having my Mum and her chum stripping wallpaper wasn’t a scenario that was going to break that trend.  Seriously…how could I accept?

Except that they are both strong willed ladies and weren’t taking no for an answer.

2014-07-31 17.33.34

So, I have spent this week slacking in the background doing tea and sustenance, aaaaaaaand…they have worked away like demons getting the walls ready for the plasterer who arrives on the 11th to skim the sitting room and hall/stairs/landing.

Ma and Pauline…you are superstars.  Enjoy your night out tomorrow…you deserve it!


In other news….Aislinn is knitted and sewn up.  She looks lovely and I can’t wait to do the review on her and get some pics.

But first I have to summon the courage to do an afterthought buttonhole.

Or unpick the whole thing and rip the front back to about 2″ above the rib.

That’s not happening any time soon.


Tomorrow, whilst The Husband does more wallpaper stripping in the hallway (thanks honey), I’m slacking off again and heading off to Bambers in Manchester for another day of sewing with the rather marvellous Celia Banks.  By the end of the day I’ll have a fitting shell (skirt/bodice/sleeve) all done and ready to go with a list of adjustments to transfer to other patterns, and a pattern for a pair of cigarette trousers also fitted, with a corresponding list for other trews patterns.  I’m very excited about this.  I think it’s going to help me in the quest for better fitting clothes for myself, and give me a structured approach to fitting that has been sadly missing!


We are now two weeks into the summer holidays and are still taking it very slowly. Today has been a perfect pyjama day…all snuggled up in a pile watching back to back movies (during which we managed to avoid Frozen…result!) and nibbling snacks.

Next week the kids are out at football club every day, so I’ll have a bit of time to get that buttonhole made and sew up a second playsuit that is cut and ready to go.  So I hope I’ll have some pretties to share with you soon.

In the meantime…have a great weekend.  And my top tip for the day is don’t throw stones at walls….

2014-07-28 11.55.45

Apparently they bounce and slice your head open!  Thankfully she’s fine.  I, on the other hand, aged about 10 years in 20 seconds!

Retro Kitty and Brit Boy

I mentioned in January that I want to return our home from its current shabby state back to a cosy, hopefully stylish, family home. This means new windows, some plastering, new flooring throughout and lots of decorating. All of which is quite an expense…and therefore is going to take some time! 😉

This is a good thing. It works nicely with my new ethos of slow, but also allows me to really ponder the style choices I’m going to make in each room. Work has already commenced with two ceilings being plastered last week. Some essential bathroom repairs are coming soon, and a new bathroom floor.

So far, so dreary!  Basic stuff…not remotely exciting.

But! Once the bathroom is done, the next room on the list is The Boy’s, and then Button’s.  And whilst we are gathering the resources to buy all the materials and furnishings we need, it seems sensible to make a start on the quilts.

This is much more fun.

First up…The Boy!  He’s Union Flag mad!  Every time we see one in a shop he dashes straight to it!  So, the Union Flag is to be the leitmotif for his new Brit Boy room.  And what better quilt to make for him than Busy Bee Quilt Design’s ‘Victory Garden’.

victory-gardenObviously the colourway shown on the original isn’t going to work for my little chap,  he’s camp, but not girly.  However, Makower’s ‘London’ is just the ticket.

LondonThis is a project that Ma is going to make.  I’m not that fond of machine piecing and quilting, but she loves it.  Who am I to spoil her fun? 😉

For Button, who is a huge Hello Kitty fan (I haven’t met a 5-year-old girl who isn’t), we are taking our inspiration from this spectacular quilt I spied on Pinterest.

Kitty quilt

image from http://qisforquilter.com/2009/02/hello-kitty-redwork-quilt-top/

Isn’t this just so stunning??????  It’s an original design by Q is for Quilter and I just couldn’t resist it.  Button has to have this quilt.

There is no pattern, so I’m shamelessly plagiarizing reverse engineering and putting my own spin on it.  To start, I’ve sourced a pile of Hello Kitty images from Google and printed them out.  There are tons of them out there…just Google “Hello Kitty Colouring Pages”. I’ve then reduced them by 50% to get them to a good size to make a quilt block.  Each block will be 6″ square when completed.


These are then going to be traced onto fabric and embroidered. The images have been delivered to Ma this morning…she’s been champing at the bit to start the tracing. I’ll be doing the embroidery.  This is going to be a wonderful joint project with Ma, she’ll be doing the pieced squares, which are going to be cream/pink/duck-egg blue…which is pretty much the colour scheme for the room.

These quilts are going to be the centrepieces of some pretty cute new bedrooms for the kids.  When I’ve told them about what we’ve got in store for them, there has been a huge amount of excitement, which makes these projects even more enjoyable for me (if that’s possible!).  And at the end of it, they’ll have rooms that reflect their individual personalities and are a joy for them to spend time in.

Whether they’ll keep them tidy is another matter! 😉

Pretty practical

About 4 miles from our home is an collectables centre named Bygone Times.  It calls itself an antique market, but I think they are overly hopeful in that description.

It’s a large warehouse, like a permanent car boot sale, stuffed to the gills with independent stalls of all sorts of second-hand stuff, some of which, but only a small minority, falls into the category of antique…quite a large proportion of which falls into the category of “good grief look at the crap people will buy!”.

However, that also leaves quite a bit of stuff that is actually really lovely and just what you’d like to have, or just what you’ve been looking for (even if you didn’t know it before you visited).

These adorable little ice cream bowls fall into the latter category:

Who knew such things existed?

Too darling.  I simply couldn’t leave them behind. Especially at only £4 for the set!

Something I have been looking for for quite some time are cannisters for teabags and sugar.

All the ones I’d seen were either plain old ugly, or ridiculously expensive, or the openings were too tiny for my ham hands.

Another steal at £4 for the three.  Suitably shabby chic.  And the perfect colour for our kitchen.

Last up was my absolute find of the year.

A French enamelled coffee pot.

Not so exciting on it’s own, although again, the green and cream are the perfect shades for our kitchen.  But, it’s not just any old coffee pot:

It’s got it’s very own built in filter!

I die!

I may have squealed quite a lot and quite loudly.  I’ve been searching for one of these on eBay for a while and they’ve only been available in America with quite onerous shipping charges.  The £25 I paid for this beauty, whilst it might seem a bit steep, is still cheaper than it would have cost from the States.  And I’d have kicked myself to New York and back if I’d left it.

So a splendid haul.

And a reminder that I really should check this place out more often.