Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Lavender, love it or loath it?

The workroom currently smells of lavender, and my husband hates it. I'm not too bothered either way, I find it quite relaxing but its not top on my favourite smell list (that would be Rose or Oud).
My nana and mum both asked me to make some lavender bags for them, realising it was not so much a request as a notification of demand I set to work.

I grow lavender here at the stone tent, so it was easy to pick a substantial amount, hang up in bunches, and dry. After two weeks, I pull the lavender off the stalk and away we go - dried lavender, full of a fresh strong lavender smell! It takes moments to sew little bags to fill with it.

I have lavender in amongst my welsh wool, its not only a relaxing smell used in herbal treatments for relaxation but it also repels moths from all of my gorgeous pure wool products, apparently the plants attract bees (I've seen that in the garden, positively buzzes with bees); the plant also repel rabbits, who don't like the smell - just like my husband!

As I was sewing some bags I made some for the etsy shop. I had panels I'd embroidered for a project I didn't complete so I made a sweet three piece set. Draw sachet, clothes hanger bag and a bag for the doorway.
Very pretty even if I do say so!

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Wonderful Willow Pattern

Wonderful Willow Pattern

We all know it, that bright "Blue and White" china that can be found in kitchen cupboards up and down the land. Its long been a stable of UK homes and is somehow now a symbol of reassurance, a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake on some blue and white china somehow makes everything ok. 
What most people don't know though is that the chinoiserie willow pattern, depicting a Chinese love story was in fact imagined and created in Staffordshire, a long way from the exotic Orient. Believed to be first developed by the founders of Spode and Minton in the 1780's, its now entered the nations very fabric, from Nanas favourite Roast Joint Serving Platter, to washed up pieces of sea pottery on the Cornish Coast.

The love story of the willow pattern is quite romantic, and on closer inspections of most pieces all the characters can be seen.

The Romantic Fable: Once there was a wealthy Mandarin, who had a beautiful daughter (Koong-se). She had fallen in love with her father's humble accounting assistant (Chang), angering her father. (It was inappropriate for them to marry due to their difference in social class.) He dismissed the young man and built a high fence around his house to keep the lovers apart. The Mandarin was planning for his daughter to marry a powerful Duke. The Duke arrived by boat to claim his bride, bearing a box of jewels as a gift. The wedding was to take place on the day the blossom fell from the willow tree.
On the eve of the daughter's wedding to the Duke, the young accountant, disguised as a servant, slipped into the palace unnoticed. As the lovers escaped with the jewels, the alarm was raised. They ran over a bridge, chased by the Mandarin, whip in hand. They eventually escaped on the Duke's ship to the safety of a secluded island, where they lived happily for years. But one day, the Duke learned of their refuge. Hungry for revenge, he sent soldiers, who captured the lovers and put them to death. The gods, moved by their plight, transformed the lovers into a pair of doves (possibly a later addition to the tale, since the birds do not appear on the earliest willow pattern plates).- Wikipedia.

So why write a blog post about Willow Pattern? Well, this is your heads up! It last had a revival in the 1980's, the newly wealthy collected it to adorn their country kitchens and its popularity resurged. When I first started dealing in antiques in 2008 nobody wanted willow pattern, I couldn't give it away, but things are changing, now as soon as I get it in stock, it sells. So, take heed, the fashion is changing as people start to love willow pattern again!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Nothing New Under the Sun

In transferring some data from one device to another I came across photos of a family trip to Hampton Court Palace taken last year. If you get the chance to visit then do! Now this is the point where most blogs would fill you with images and facts to regale the wonder to be found in one of the nations favourite Royal Palaces. But this isn't most blogs.

I had been there before to take part in the first "Kirstie Allsops Hand Made Fair". This trip was quite different though, not only did I not have my hand made goodies in tow, I was accompanied by my mum, brother and future sister-in-law.

We roamed around, iPhone out taking photos and breathing in all the history, then whilst wandering around the art galleries we came across a collection of Canaletto Paintings. My Mum was awestruck. All roaming came to a halt as she stood and breathed in every painting in full detail.

Anyway, apart from having to chivvy my Mum along it was an excellent trip, I am obviously biased loving history, especially Tudor and Georgian period but none the less it was great.
However my favourite photo that I took is this one.
Etched into the stone windowsill of the Tudor Gallery, that Catherine Howard apparently ran screaming down when told she was to be executed, was this fine example of old graffiti.
I LOVE THIS. Most of all because its a shows there's nothing new under the sun. At some point some young soul who was bored scratched into the stone and someone else decided to copy and so it went on. This to me is very comforting, history was being made there, decisions that had ramifications that changed the path of the world, but someone still tried to etch their mark on the stone. The world changed, but people still wondered what to eat, who they liked and what mark to etch in the stone. Nothing new under the sun.

Monday, 3 July 2017

The Radish Problem

Ever noticed how excellent the humble Radish is? Just like people, they're all the same, but all completely different too. From planted seed to harvest in 30 days there are few more satisfying veg to grow, especially with children.

The problem is, after the first few amazing salads, what the hell do you do with all the radish you've got? Well, in my opinion they make a great breakfast juice when juiced with carrot and apple.

They also  make a brilliant salad with sliced orange, but that's not my favourite.

Take a 1/2 a red onion and dice it, dice an avocado, slice your radishes, chop some parsley and combine everything with salt, pepper and 1/2 a lime juice. I promise you, you'll love it.

Monday, 8 August 2016

The Antique Shop

The Antique Shop

I've worked in Hay Antiques Market since 2009. It's an odd place, that kind of eccentric, rambling, allsorts, building that dates back to early Georgian times and somehow fits the trade nicely.
After being in the trade for some years now I should be used to the people we get through the door, but still they amaze me. Hay-On-Wye is firmly on the tourist map so we do get visitors from all over the place along with locals.

The characters that come through the door sometimes feel as though they've been lifted from some forgotten Dickensian classic, others clearly show how Britain got an Empire. That kind of strong iron core folk that will do anything for someone with good manners but heaven help the soul that queue hops in front of them. I love these people. I adore their low level mumbling strength of character and odd dirty laugh. The willingness to knock their heads back and crack a joke. Their ability to rush in and tell me if the parking attendant has been seen. A deep seated love of dogs - after all they are nicer than people - and their considered opinions on the best cake or cup of tea in town.
They are the core customer base and frankly they're brilliant.

We don't stock Nazi memorabilia. It's not written into the rules its just not done in our happy band. So imagine my surprise when a young American man came in on Saturday. Clearly on holiday in his shorts and tee-shirt he was eating an ice cream stood next to the sign that said no eating or drinking in the shop. I let that slip as he looked at me in between licks of his ice cream cone and said "do you have WW2 stuff?"
Me: "we have 1940's ephemera, clothing and artefacts, as well as some government issued World war 2 posters........what were you looking for?"
Customer: "oh I'm not interested in that,....... Nazi stuff,..... German things I want..."
Me: "no we don't stock that"
Customer: "Oh,...well what about Vichy French?"
Me - smiling sweetly : "I'm sorry I'm afraid we only have non fascist winning side items here"
He shrugged, turned on his heels and walked out.

It still surprises me that people want that kind of item, a military dealer I know told me that Nazi memorabilia is still a great seller, but really, why? Who would want that in their home? Why would anyone date a guy or girl that collected it? How would you approach it as a subject? "Hi, my names Joe Bloggs, I'm 23 years old, I'd like to meet a like minded individual, my hobbies are cycling, going out and collecting Fascist things..." That's a dating profile that would be swiped as far away as possible as soon as possible. The only way around it would be to keep it quiet like some seedy secret or develop a collection once in a committed long term relationship. 

As I said, I'll never get use to the people who come through the door, they still startle and amaze me.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

100 Days of Making

100 Days of Making

I've been a bit lapse with this whole blogging palaver. Mainly because I've been buried under a pile of beads, mountain of fabric and sorting my yarn stash. Whilst still doing everything else obviously.
But thank goodness, the new workroom is now ready to go, and I love it!

I've started making bags as well, something else to add to the creativity repertoire. Sewing oilcloth is not for the beginner, it sticks to the machine easily, and teaches the sewer a lot about patience!

So to celebrate the workroom finally being finished I thought I'd kick start my creativity with a 100 day making challenge. Every day for 100 days I hand make something that's listed in Instagram, Etsy or Facebook, maybe even occasionally Twitter. I thought if I listed them on social media it would give me a platform to prove I'd done it and completed the 100 day challenge.

So far its mainly been jewellery - but lets see where it goes!

Thursday, 4 February 2016


I'm sorry I've not written for a while. Unfortunately my German Shepherd Dog, the lovely Jack, whom I'd had since he was 5 weeks old passed away recently. He was 3 weeks away from his 12th birthday. I realise to many a dog is just a dog, but if you've ever genuinely loved a four legged friend you'd understand the love and loyalty a pet can show you, and as grief is a payment for love, the debt is often larger than expected. I knew I loved him, I didn't realise quite how encompassing that was until he was gone. I miss him terribly, so I've just not wanted to write anything.

If I can ever be half the person he thought I was, then I'd be pretty awesome, essentially, I don't know what I ever did to deserve such as amazing dog.

End of your guard watch my lovely boy.