Tag Archives: house and garden

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.




Mooching on a Monday

The past few weeks have been hustle and bustle. It’s all good but I’m craving a slightly slower pace. Today was the first opportunity for a little simple domesticity.

Whilst the children were at nursery I made bias binding and did the machine sewing to attach it to my dress.

Tonight I can curl up on the sofa with The Husband and hand stitch whilst we watch a movie.  This dress is so nearly finished.

After nursery the children and I went to the park for a couple of hours to make the most of a dry day.  We met grandparents and friends from nursery, purely accidentally.  We played stick ball and football and had lunch in the cafe.

Then whilst they scootered up and down the street with the neighbours children I attacked (and beat into submission)the 3 foot high weeds in the garden, and cut the peony flowers that had been battered by the winds and rain over the weekend.

I need to plant more peonies!

And some of the lovely new peony roses from David Austin.

David Austin’s beautiful Royal Jubilee rose
Image courtesy of www.davidaustinroses.com

Doing all this gentle, domestic mooching,  I remembered what life was like before I started to finish my degree.

And what it will be like in just over 3 months when I am done.

And I’m excited for a future full of simple pleasures at home and with my family.

A pretty great start to the week, no?

I hope your Monday has been as wonderful.

It doesn’t always happen to someone else!

Recently in the news there was a story of a retired lady whose neighbour’s house had set on fire.  The fire had spread into her house, an ancient thatched roof cottage, and burnt it to the ground.  The lady in question had cancelled her home insurance to save money and was now left homeless and unable to rebuild her beloved home.

Source: bbc.co.uk

It got me thinking.

In these times of austerity measures we are all looking to reduce our outgoings.  For us this has meant that I’m sewing the stash of patterns and fabric rather than going out and buying whatever takes my fancy.  We’ve cut back on the cable/DVD rental services.  We now have the bare minimum.  To be fair we could have lost the cable entirely but as we don’t go out very often it seemed like a step too far.  We are just being more aware of where we spend our money and what on.

I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.  Frugality sometimes reminds you of everything you do have.

But the one thing I would never sacrifice is the home insurance.

You see, I’ve been in the position where I’ve been thankful for home insurance.  Before I met the Husband I lived with a guy in Surrey for about 7 years (man…that was a lucky escape!).  In January 2003 we arrived home from work to find our house flooded.

Not the kind of flooding where a pipe bursts and you need to fix the ceiling and replace a carpet.  Maybe repaint a little.

Source: chertsey.surreyherald.co.uk


Full on, river bursts its banks, house under a foot of water, you need a boat to get to your house, and everything on the ground floor is ruined kind of flooding.

And we didn’t even live on the river.  The water had just risen up through the water table as it couldn’t cope with all the excess.

Two cars written off.   Carpets. TV and DVD player. White goods.  Kitchen units.  All furniture. About 500 books.  Every single thing on the ground floor ended up in a skip.

All the ground floor walls had to be stripped back to the brick to half height and replastered and redecorated.

Even my sewing machines were ruined.   Both of them!

The house had to be dried out once the water had receded.  So big drying machines had to be hired.

We lived in a hotel for a week and then lived in a rented house for 6 months.  £1800 a month that cost.

It’s an expensive thing, being flooded. Seriously. We reckoned the total came to over £60,000. And that’s 9 years ago. But the home insurance covered the lot. Every last penny.

Some of our neighbours didn’t have insurance and had to cover everything themselves. It was heart-breaking to see.

So this post is just to say that whilst everyone is tightening their belts at the moment, I’d suggest you think twice before cutting back on your home insurance.

Just sayin’.

PS…we’d been back in the house two weeks when we had the burst pipe type of flooding too.  And yes, the insurance covered it. 

* This is a sponsored post*

Decorating for Christmas

Usually I’m a bit “bah humbug” about Christmas decorations.

They go up just before Christmas.

They come down straight afterwards.

Which is very strange as I really do love Christmas.  I’m just very resistant to the whole “Christmas is in the shops before Halloween has finished” state of affairs.

Not this year.  I’ve been itching to put them up and finally found a chunk of time on Friday morning to get them out of the loft and into the sitting room.  I blame the kids for this change of heart.

Funny how you can see things in photos that you can’t see in real life…I need to buy a couple more strings of gold beads

We have a sackful of Santa’s (what is the collective noun for Santa’s?  Sackful?  Beard?  Sleigh?  Who knows?)

And, there’s also the other kind of decorating going on.

Button’s bedroom has been driving me to distraction for ages.  It hasn’t been redecorated for nearly 3 years.  Whilst I loved the colour scheme and it was the first room I’d decorated for one of my babies, it was looking very shabby indeed.

I also happen to know that Santa has some lovely things in store for her for Christmas, and then there is another pretty spectacular gift being made that may be for Christmas, maybe for her birthday, but either way will require some space.  So I feel I can’t put it off any more, and whilst it might be slightly crazy timing, I feel better for having this project under way.

It will be painted by next weekend, with Button moved back in (she’s currently camping in The Boy’s room, with all the chaos that entrails!)

Then she”ll be ready and waiting for when the real Father Christmas comes down the chimney in two weeks time.

Painting shelves

What I want to be doing is sewing…I have a dress pattern altered and the fabric cut and ready to go.

It’s sitting on the sewing room table singing its siren song and begging me to come make a start.

What I’m doing house stuff and one of the jobs du jour is painting shelves for The Boy’s room…they are shouting the fabric down and have waited longer to be done.

I’ve been putting them off because, whilst you can balance the shelves themselves on a couple of bean cans to facilitate painting, the wooden brackets are a bit more troublesome.

I explained this to The Husband, who gave me The Look.

Then he disappeared to the garage, returned with screwdriver, 4 long screws and 2 old bits of wood:

It would seem I have no excuses now….the shelves will be finished this week!

Who stole my month?

July has been a crazy busy month.  And it’s not over just yet!

The Chaos Monsters have finished nursery for the summer and they’ve been swinging between bouncing off the walls and being tired and grouchy.  So much so that Button has reverted to afternoon naps.

With naps back in place you’d think I’d be getting loads done, but not so. Niece Stitches has been in hospital with a bad attack of “we-don’t-know-what-the-heck-is-wrong-with-you-and-causing-all-this-pain”.  It started with a mad dash to her house for me so I could take care of her kids, and a mad dash to the hospital for her in an ambulance.  Princess Rose was amazing, talking to the ambulance controller on the phone and looking after her mummy until the ambulance arrived. When did 4 year olds get so smart and brave?

Niece is home now but still not well.  Thankfully her MIL is in-situ and here for the summer to take good care of them all. And a great job she’s doing of it too.

Whilst all that was going on Mr S was off work with gastroenteritis. Although it was lovely for us to have him home for a week instead of dashing around the country like a man possessed, it wasn’t quite the break we’d hoped for. Thankfully he is back to fitness and today has crafted me a lovely gate to corral the kids in the garden:

Not quite finished but fabulous none the less

Tomorrow we shall clear a space for the sandpit, move the last of the junk out of the garden, cut the lawn and plant the lovely lilacs that Himmelbjerget bought me for my birthday.  Then we can enjoy the garden for the summer and the kids can play safely without me chasing them off the drive every two minutes.  Much more relaxing for all concerned, I think.

Obviously in all of this my sewing machine and I have become almost strangers.

I don’t think the black trousers will be finished this weekend, and that’s OK. Life gets in the way and I’m just glad that everyone is better (well, I know Niece Stitches has a way to go but at least she’s in the system now and that can only be a good thing).

So for August the only plan I’m making is that the sewing machine is coming down from the sewing loft and onto the kitchen table in the hope that whilst the kids play in the newly safe garden, I might get a few lines of sewing done. And I really need to as I fell off the fabric abstinence bandwagon

It’s an unlabelled but probably lightweight linen from Abakan.  I’d seen it a few weeks ago and resisted temptation but on my most recent visit I simply couldn’t walk away.  As there were only 4 metres left at only £4 a metre it seemed rude not to, so I snapped up the whole lot and skipped away a happy girl.

Now all I need is for whoever is pinching all my time to buzz off and let me get on with things.

Here’s hoping!

Clean Mama

The problem with slow sewing is that it takes a while to complete a project to show you.

The trousers are at the second toile stage.

The denim skirt is nearly finished…top-stitching the waistband, top-stitching the hem, sewing a button-hole and button and I’m done.

Also it’s too darned hot to get Mr S to pose for photos in his Whitfield jacket, so I can’t even share those with you.

However, I have had some lovely luck in the past week.

I won the Clean Mama giveaway

over at Infarrantly Creative.

I couldn’t be more thrilled.

I have to admit that I hadn’t come across Clean Mama before this giveaway, but I’m really glad I have as her ethos and products are right up my street.

You see, I’m one of those oddballs who simply has to do all chores and housework before I start doing any dressmaking, knitting or whatever.  Crazy, no?  I’d be far more productive if it was the other way round but I can’t live with the mess.  It makes me twitchy. And then some!

So to me Martha Stewart and the Fly Lady are modern-day heroines, and anything that can get me more organised and my house cleaner, well, I’m going to go with it.

And it turns out that Becky has some fantastic products to help me out.

I chose the Starter Kitand swapped out the Christmas Kit for the Fitness and Weight Loss Kit.

I’m already using the Fitness and Weight Loss Kit to jump-start my stalled weight loss (you may have noticed I’ve been very quiet about that over the last few months…now you know why!)  I’ve even started drinking more water ‘cos there’s tiny little check boxes for each day just nudging you along to be more healthy.

Pretty neat.

Top of my list from the rest of the kit are the All Over Everywhere List (for those days where you’ve got lots of different errands to do in different places…like every day!), the Menu Planner (this not only helps with shopping but is my key to eating more healthily so works with the Fitness Kit too), the Food Inventory and the Before I Forget.

And that’s just for starters!

I’ve yet to sit down properly and set up all the information but I can already see multiple uses for these.  The All Over Everywhere List is going to be perfect for To Do lists for finishing off home dec chores for each room.  I’m going to allocate a Before I Forget list to each of the kids to remember those little milestones and the bonkers things they say.

So thank you to Beckie and Becky for this great giveaway.

An why don’t you mosey on over and check them out too.

Just to let you know that I’m not affiliated in any way with Clean Mama.  Becky hasn’t paid me for this review, nor has she threatened me with physical violence.  She’s far too nice for that.  I’m just genuinely thrilled with these printouts and wanted to share with you.

Hey, and lets not forget Beckie over at Infarrantly Creative.  Not only did she run this super cool giveaway but her blog is tremendous.  She’s amazingly creative.

All images in this post are courtesy of Clean Mama and Infarrantly Creative… with many thanks.

What a difference a day makes

Saturday morning dawned bright and warm and the boys had a plan to paint the garden fences.

This plan was not without discussion as I had my heart set on Tudor Black Oak.  The boys thought I’d finally and irredeemably lost my mind.  Needless to say I won and off they went to buy the fence paint.

On their return Mr S posed a change to the plan.  Now you know that I’m fond of my plans and that I like to keep pretty much to the original specification.

On this occasion however I was very quickly swayed from my original course.

And at the end of the day, instead of painted fences and a patch of earth awaiting seed, this is what we have:

The green, green grass of home

Just how cool is my husband?

And how fabulous is my nephew for working on this for us too?

Oh, and how thrilled can one girl be about having her own patch of lawn?