Sunday, 29 May 2011

House Warming

Mr Biddle and myself are on a mission to try and get as many of our friends to move down to the South West as possible. We love it here, and we figure that the more people who move here, the more the ball will keep rolling. So we were delighted to discover that the little brother of my best friend Miss Lawton was moving with his lovely new wife to nearby Stroud. Mr Biddle has recently been working with Mr Lawton as they are fellow musicians - it's a small world - and the new Mrs Lawton is also a superb folk singer, otherwise known as Emily Barker.

Their new pad is a beautiful, bijou, bohemian cottage, full to the brim with musical instruments and vintage clothing, with gorgeous views across the Gloucestershire hills. As a little house warming gift, I sewed up this cushion in fabulous vintage-style fairground fabric by Kokka which I bought from Fabric Rehab.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Hexagon Patchwork Tutorial

Those who follow my Baby Blog will know that I've been hand making a rather ambitious and colourful hexagon quilt for the wee bairn, to pass the time before he arrives. When my friend Mrs Flint came to visit recently, she asked me how to hand piece over paper but I didn't get a chance to show her. So I thought I'd create a little tutorial (my first attempt at one) dedicated to her. Remember that you can create lovely rosettes to applique onto things with just seven hexagons, or small cushions - I created a dinky patchwork cushion with just 22 hexagons.

NB: I'm sure professional quilters out there will frown at some of my methods, but this is how I do it! You can also do hexagon patchwork by machine, but to be honest, having watched footage of how to do this on the internet, it looks almost as laborious and tricky, but without the satisfaction of sitting like the Bronte sisters and marvelling at what your own fair hands have created!

What you will need ...

  • A hexagon template on cardboard. Make sure all the sides are EXACTLY the same length
  • Pencil
  • Scrap paper
  • Scissors
  • Squares of scrap fabric bigger than your hexagon template
  • Thread

How to create a hexagon patchwork by hand ...

one. Make a pile of paper hexagons by drawing round your template and then cutting them out very exactly. Of course, if you create the hexagon on the computer, you could print out pages of the hexagons and then cut them out.

two. Cut out your fabric squares.

three. Place one paper hexagon in the centre of a fabric square.

four. Fold two sides of the fabric over one corner of the hexagon and bring your thread up through the layers.

five. Fold over another edge to create a second corner, and tack this in place.

six. Continue folding and tacking right round the hexagon, and secure the last stitch. Make lots of these until you have enough for the design and size you want.

seven. Once you have a pile of paper covered hexagons, lay them out to work out your preferred pattern. DO NOT remove the tacking stitches and paper yet. You can now begin joining them together.

eight. Place two hexagons right sides together. Over stitch through the very edge of the two hexagons. The idea is to catch the fabric of the hexagons but NOT the paper inside.

nine. Voila! You have joined two hexagons together.

ten. You don't need to cut your thread at this point. Just place another hexagon into place next to where you just finished, with right sides together again, and carry on stitching.

eleven. Keep on sewing hexagons together until you have done them ALL. Only once you have done them all and are happy with it, can you iron it all, and then snip all the tacking threads and remove them and the pieces of paper. This is very satisfying and you'll be left with one large piece made up of lots of small hexagons. Congratulations.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Embroidery for Ethel

When we were little, my Nan Ethel would sing a little made up song with the lyrics "You're my little love a dove" (imagine this is in a lovely, soothing, Lancashire accent). For one of her last birthdays, my sister drew this for our beloved Nan.

Image copyright of
Last night, I turned the image into a little embroidery project. Here's how it turned out ...


Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Birthday Gifts for Boys

A couple of male friends have turned 30 over the last couple of months. Boys can be so difficult to buy for can't they? So here's what I came up with.

For Boy No.1, Mr Mills - a talented musician by trade - I settled on a Marine Band harmonica. Mr Mills is always dressed in wonderful, unique vintage clothing. Tweeds, waistcoats, and a beautiful girlfriend on his arm who runs the fantastic vintage wedding dress boutique Fur Coat No Knickers. So the vintage styling of this instrument from harmonica specialists Hohner will suit him down to a tee.

For Boy No.2, Mr Flint - a man accustomed to the finer things in life - I made him a cushion. Mr Flint loves to shave with luscious GEO Trumpers products, and in his man den at home, he sits in his Parker Knoll armchair overlooked by antlers hung from the wall. So I thought a cushion made from tweed would go down a treat, and I embroidered it with a simple image of a deer. 

Embroidering onto the tweed was quite tricky as my transfer pencil wouldn't work on the colour and texture of the fabric. So to get around this, I kept my grease proof paper (so much cheaper than tracing paper) on the fabric and stitched through both layers, before ripping it all away. Tweezers are great for removing the tiny bits of paper from the finer details.

Here's how the cushion turned out ... it's backed in simple cream calico.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Pretty Patterns

I've spent the last week getting to grips with using proper printed patterns, starting off with clothing for babies ... the results of which you can check out on my vintage baby blog, Albert and the Lion. One advantage of being on maternity leave is that I've had acres of time to fill with patiently cutting and working out how to use a pattern properly, and I've been delighted with the level of finish on the things I've made. I'm completely hooked. So I thought I'd swell my patterns stash with some more projects for The Boy, and also with some for me and Mr B too.

I've blogged before about the excellent online sewing site, Backstitch. Alice, who runs it, has a superb selection of the funkiest patterns from across the globe, and she's adding to her stock all the time. And I love receiving a parcel from Backstitch - the patterns come hand wrapped in tissue paper, tied with ribbon and bearing a handwritten note. It's like receiving a gift, and in these impersonal days of online shopping, the pretty little touches make all the difference.

Alice stocks a selection of American Oliver + S patterns which are fantastic - classic, slightly retro clothing patterns for little boys and girls. I've bought a couple before and also own the Oliver + S: Little Things to Sew Book which I would highly recommend as one of the best craft books around. The design and cut-out doll illustrations of the packaging are beautiful and the instructions are really well written. This time, I bought the Sketchbook Shirt & Shorts pattern, and the Nature Walk Pullover and Pants pattern. My creations will be on my baby blog in due course.

For me and Mr B, I went for two patterns by Collette, another American company. They produce modern classic patterns with a vintage feel, and again, the packaging and design are superb - they blow pattern packaging from Burda and the like out of the water. 

For Mr Biddle, I chose the American retro Negroni Shirt - which is an intermediate level pattern and I'm a bit nervous about attempting. But I've got a big piece of vintage red gingham crying out to be turned into a shirt for him so I'll report back when I pluck up the courage to try it. For myself, I chose the Violet blouse which looks very cute indeed and is a beginner level pattern so hopefully won't flummox me too much!

Friday, 20 May 2011


These days of waiting for our Biddle blessing are being filled with huge amounts of luscious domesticity and home making by Mr Biddle and myself. As you know, sewing is filling up lots of my time (my baby clothing creations can be seen over on my vintage baby blog Albert & the Lion). And Mr Biddle has been down in his basement music room practising on his new guitar (he just started playing properly last month) and this week wrote a lullaby for the wee one.

I also taught Mr B to make fairy cakes yesterday. The poor man had never done it before so I got out the Hummingbird Bakery Book (it's a goodie) and shoved him in the direction of the Kenwood Chef. My Nan, who taught me the gentle art of making buns would have been proud of his yummy efforts.

After all the sunshine followed by rain, our garden is looking lush and lovely.

As we've not had our own garden before (other than a solitary pot of rosemary hanging off a shared balcony), we've been marvelling at the beauty of it all - there are pears starting to form on the little tree, the strawberries are getting bigger and just need to turn red, the rhubarb is still going strong, and the odd asparagus tip that has come through has made a tasty accompaniment to our suppers. Check out this piece of our asparagus ... it was 80cm long!!

We can't take any credit for the beauty and productivity of the garden as it is down to the hard work and graft of our landlords. But look at these poppies - they look like they've been sculpted by an artist using crepe paper. Extraordinary. And these will be the first bits of nature our little lad lays his fresh new eyes on. Lucky boy.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Viewfinder Cushions

When we were little, my sister and I had a viewfinder. It was made from red plastic and you inserted circular discs into it which contained tiny pictures of subjects like Postman Pat (who I wanted to marry age 3) printed onto acetate. When seen through the viewfinder, the pictures sprung to life in amazing 3D, and you clicked a little black button at the side to move the picture on. It looked just like this ...

Image from here
So imagine my surprise and delight when I was browsing through the fabrics in The Makery Emporium  and found this printed linen by Kokka featuring viewfinder discs.

So I made two cushions from the half metre I bought as house warming gifts. One for my sister, of course ...

And one for my dear friend Miss Phillips, as she's a very dusky pink/purple kind of a gal so I thought the colours would make her smile ...

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Gorgeous Gifts

As there have been lots of occasions to celebrate around here ... birthdays, imminent babies, house warmings ... the Biddle household has received some really gorgeous and thoughtful gifts from friends near and far. So here's a teeny tiny selection of them, which have made us smile and brightened our home.

Miss Grindle potted flowers in vintage crockery ... a lovely idea which we have as the centre piece for our garden table.

Miss Pine sent this vintage money box all the way from Australia. I love the vibrant retro illustrations, and it makes the perfect vessel for storing loose coppers.

Mr & Mrs Baird gave us these exquisite enamel beakers and jug.

Our dear friend and neighbour Mr Lyford knows how much I like to bake so this gorgeous vintage-style cake stand will come in very handy to display my efforts.

And finally, I've sung the praises of the town of Lewes in my blog before, and my friend Mrs Flint, who is very lucky to live there, picked up this delicate and very fine jug from the superb local shop Wickle - a treasure trove of loveliness and gift inspiration for people of all ages and tastes.