Tagged: bunting

Aug 03

Join the chicks @theFarm!



I’m delighted to be working with some excellent creative people (plus a few chickens, geese and dogs) on brand new project, @theFarm.

You can let your imagination run wild and your talents go free-range from this September when the the first @the Farm courses and workshops go live. It’s the place to learn a new craft skill, or spruce up an old one, with the very best hand-picked tutors in an ancient honeyed stone farmhouse in Wiltshire, just 20 minutes from Bath. Gorgeous lunches and refreshments are laid on within the workshop fee too. And parking is easy and ample. Could it get any better? I don’t think so.

To give you a small taste of what you can learn, there’ll be upholstery and lampshades c/o Joanna, who is also the clever lady who devised our photoshoot.

There’sdarning from me. My swift introduction to the subject, Strictly Come Darning!, has been favourably reviewed in Simply Knitting and Simply Crochet. I have sessions currently booking on Wednesday 11th September, Friday 11th October and Wednesday 13th November .


Darning at the Farm


And I can also familiarise you with your sewing machine: the one you bought ages ago which has been gathering dust ever since. Or the one your grandma handed down to you, maybe rather like the one below. Whatever its age or make, bring it along to have its mysteries revealed at my one-day event, Get to Know Your Sewing Machine. You’ll also make a satisfying first project to take away. Dates: Monday 23rd September, Monday 14th October, and Saturday 23rd November.

Singer 99k, 1946

Allow me to introduce you to your sewing machine


Emma (pictured darning with me above) is the lovely boss and total organisational whizz, and the lady you speak to to make your booking.  Early Bird offers on these autumn courses end 23rd August, so get on the blower (01225 783504) or pooter (emma@at-the-farm.co.uk) before all the other chicks scratch over the best pickings. And don’t forget to sign up for @theFarm‘s monthly newsletter – if you can’t find the link, send Emma an email and ask to be put on the mailing list. More exciting tutors and workshops will be unveiled in due course, so keep your eyes peeled.

Hope to see you @theFarm very soon! Wellies not obligatory.


Jul 14

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show


I lucked out and won a pair of tickets to the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show c/o Country Living magazine. DH and I drove up to London in Thursday’s glorious sunshine, our euphoria tempered only by a determined thrifty agenda: to buy no plants (I’ll admit that I was conflicted on this one), and to view the event mainly through thrifty allotment-holder goggles.

Show entrance

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is really the biggest village fête in the entire world. There are lots of people-of-a-certain-age in straw hats. There is bunting. There are best-in-shows to be voted for (we helped with the best-gerberas-grown-by-schoolchildren competition), and there are big wooden wheels to be spun to win prizes (DH won a pretty mug c/o Clipper Teas).


Yellow bunting, as far as eye can see

But instead of the village green as the backdrop, you have this.


And, rather than just the one marquee, there are several.

Some say it’s better than RHS Chelsea because you don’t feel quite so much like a sardine, and you have that backdrop.


Long Water, the rectangular lake extending away from the palace, is wonderfully cooling on a hot day too. Very sensibly, the refreshment areas line the lake.


The event embraces many contradictions: it somehow feels intimate yet is enormous; rural yet urban; thrifty yet opulent (you can buy anything from a ball of twine to a large garden palace); escapist yet crammed with people; it was hard, for instance, to see the show gardens for the pressing throng.


Hard to avoid the crowds in the show gardens

And you had to watch your ankles for the little pink plant trolleys being wheeled around. Everyone (but us) seemed to have them! Which possibly explains why the RHS porters were resting on their wheelbarrows when I spotted them.


RHS porters resting on their laurels

First to catch my eye was Mr. Fothergill’s Seeds . The packets were discounted from the catalogue/shop price, and are brand spanking new, with long plant-by times. Here I could go slightly wild, so half a dozen packets (at just £1 a pop) were snapped up. I am drawn to unusually coloured vegetables, and just about anything purple. But, with great determination, I managed to resist the purple carrots and pea pods, but yellow courgette and rainbow chard came home with me.

Then I spotted Franchi’s/Seeds of Italy; well, I first spotted an eye-catching Roman centurion on their stand – it’s something I’m used to, living in Bath. Franchi’s is the oldest seed producer and seller in the world; the company was established in 1783, the year (their catalogue explains) that Mozart wrote his first mass and the American War of Independence ended. Impressively, Franchi remains in the same family after seven generations. A fellow allotment-holder had recommended their seed to me just the other week, and substantial show-deals made a purchase necessary. I  bought such things as yellow carrots – originally a peasant food, considered no better than forage for cattle, but now served as a novetly in swanky restaurants – artichoke, and winter salad. I hope they translate to northerly latitudes OK. I asked the centurion about borage – whether it had really come over with the Romans – and he produced a great little book all about Roman plants which confirmed borage’s Roman provenance. I was so chuffed.

There was more borage on the Plantlife stall, and a lot of embroidery. More of that in another post.


More borage! Seeing it everywhere now…

I was really mesmerised by the lavender.


It’s at this point that I very nearly weakened and wanted to buy a small plant for £2.50 from the lady holding the national collection. But my will-power support app (a.k.a. my husband) reminded me not to wobble. I know it’s edible and the bees and butterflies love it, but it’s a plant. No plants, remember.

But I could indulge in the edible plants marquee, as there was garlic c/o the nice people on the Isle of Wight. Garlic was another Roman import to our shores, and I have fond memories of a tandeming holiday around the Isle of Wight, visiting a Roman villa and catching the scent of garlic growing in the fields. So I bought a head to try on the allotment; the salesman uttered the magic words ‘rust-resistant’ which sounded more realistic on Bath valley clay than something happier with its feet in free-draining Provençal soil. Realism is everything on an allotment, tempered with a light sprinkling of sod-it-I’ll-try-it-anyway.


This pink shed from made me smile; this pink is the signature colour of Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, as you could probably tell by that banner at the beginning. I liked the ‘raised bed’ – an idea I was going to try on the allotment with an old wooden bedstead, but Hampton Court (not to mention The Archers) got there first.


We enjoyed speaking to the man on the Hozelock stall. If hoses feature in your life at all, their new non-kinking lightweight hose technology is really impressive. But we didn’t buy.

I have to mention Felco, the Swiss company which produces excellent secateurs for the very serious gardener. They are not cheap but are investment shears which have repair built into their concept: a serious piece of kit which will last a lifetime. It’s good to know that you can take your ailing ones to the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, drop them at the Felco stand and (provided you cough up £19) they’ll be returned to you, completely serviced and overhauled with any knackered parts replaced. Nice one, Felco.

The Rose and Floristry Vintage Festival had its own marquee. There were stunning roses in shades I haven’t seen before.

Roses at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show

And I spotted a vintage Singer sewing machine (another of my favourite repairable tools) posing next to the very orange Rose of the Year 2014.


Lady Marmalade, Rose of the Year 2014

There was a giant bee upcycled from Ecover bottles


Ecover’s giant upcycled bee

And Purbeck ice creams came along just when I needed some refreshing lemon sorbet.

Lemon sorbet

Alliums were everywhere. I reassured myself that I am satisfied with the packet of ‘Purple Sensation’ bulbs bought for a couple of pounds and planted several years ago, now spreading itself gently in drifts across my garden (which I like rather better than regimented rows, I must admit). I hope to transplant some to my allotment.


Alliums standing to attention


And the spectacle went on and on. A hay windmill banded with dried flowers.


A large bed planted entirely with basil.


Basil bed

And a giant glove made of roses for a thornproof gardening-glove company whose name escapes me. But they deserve a big hand.


Rose glove

My phone (and camera) battery died before I could snap the Country Living marquee. If I’d wanted to dress like a  lady gardener, there would have been ample opportunity to try gardening hats, linen smocks, wellies, aprons and gloves with giant gauntlets. I didn’t manage to snap the butterfly dome either, erected in a fortnight by the Eden Project.

We drifted home, tired, happy and clutching our seed packets, with our heads full of what we’d seen and dreams of crops to come. I’ll bring your more news about Plantlife’s embroidery project soon.


May 14

My first sewing machine #4: Abby Harris

Abby Harris of Bubs Bears

Abby Harris of Bubs Bears

I’m delighted to be able to present the story of Abby Harris‘s first sewing machine, another interview in my continuing series. Do check out my previously posted interviews with Ruth Singer and Julia Laing.

I met Abby when we were both running stalls at the It’s Darling! Spring Fair here in Bath. She was selling her lovingly hand-crafted Bubs Bears, which are often upcycled or contain vintage elements (such as some lovely buttons which she bought from yours truly). Leaving a small ecological footprint is clearly important to her. Abby also makes bespoke keepsake teddies, crafted from a customer’s personally significant textiles, such as baby clothes, wedding dress, or the garments of a lost loved-one. Some are patchworked from several special garments. She creates lots of other charming items including peg bags, lavender hearts, bags, cushions, button pins, magnets, hair clips and cards. Abby blogs, can be found on Facebook here and sells on Folksy.

More of Abby's makingsSome of Abby’s charming makings
Recycled sweater bear

Upcycled sweater bear

ScrapianaTell me about your first sewing machine, Abby. Can you remember its make, model and colour?

Abby: My first sewing machine was a Toyota, I don’t remember the model but it was a fairly basic one.

Abby's first sewing machine

Abby's first sewing machine: a Toyota

Scrapiana: Was it gifted or borrowed?

Abby: It was a joint birthday present for my 21st (I think) birthday from my then boyfriend and my parents.

Scrapiana: Nice gift! Do you still have it? If you got rid of it, where did it go?

Abby: I do still have my first machine as I only stopped using it last year after 15 years. At the moment it is on loan to my mother-in-law as hers is broken, but soon I hope to get it back so my eldest daughter can use it as she is showing a keen interest in sewing.

Scrapiana: How lovely that your daughter will be able to use it too! So, what’s your earliest memory of sewing? What did you make, and who taught you?

Abby: I remember doing a bit of sewing at school. I think we made and printed our own t-shirts; mine had yellow footprints on it. Other than that I learned mostly from watching my mum. She studied fashion at college and used to make all our clothes, as well as doing dressmaking and alterations for other people.

Scrapiana: At that time it was quite unusual to have your mother making all your clothes. I imagine she made a great sewing teacher, then. What was your first big sewing project?

Funky floral bear

Abby: My first big project was a dress for my daughter to wear to a wedding. It was a real challenge as it was a silky fabric and had two layers. But it fit her, and she got lots of compliments. I’ve never tried making another though!

Scrapiana: What did your first machine do especially well, or particularly badly?

Abby: It was terrible at keeping the correct tension, and kept jamming the fabric up under the foot. In hindsight I should have had it serviced regularly – when it finally got so bad last year that I had to take it in to be looked at, they gave me a good telling off when I admitted it hadn’t even been oiled in 15 years! While it was being serviced they loaned me an old Bernina. When I saw it my first thoughts were “oh my God, I am not going to be able to do my work on that!” It was ancient and I thought it would be awful. But I soon learned that it was the quietest smoothest machine I had ever used. I didn’t want to take it back!

Abby's borrowed Bernina

Abby's borrowed Bernina

Scrapiana: What machine do you have now? Is it your dream machine? If not, what would that be, if  money were no object?

Abby: I bought my new machine last year. My local shop gave me a great discount due to it being the old colour; the new machine with the new colour was about £200 more! It’s a Husqvarna Sapphire 850 and I love it! It has many functions which I’m still yet to learn how to use, but the fact that all I have to do is move my foot up and down and it almost does the rest for me is wonderful.It’s not a beautiful machine to look at, so if I could morph it with a pretty old black antique machine then I’d never want anything different!

Abby's new Husqvarna

Abby's beloved Husqvarna

Scrapiana: I have a strange confession, Abby, which is that I give each of my sewing machines a name (Josephine, Winifred etc), making them almost animate to me. Have you given any of your machines a name? And would you ever speak to your machine? – to encourage or to upbraid it, for example?

Abby: I haven’t named my machine. No, I don’t really speak to my machine. I might declare my love for it… though only when no-one else could hear me!

Scrapiana: Ah, just as I feared… it’s only me, then. Abby, thanks so much for taking the time to answer all my questions! It’s been lovely to hear the sewing-machine journey behind Bub’s Bears. Your business certainly has its heart (lavender-stuffed, of course) in the right place.

Stack of hearts, mid-construction

Stack of hearts await lavender stuffing

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