Tagged: lavender

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.


Jul 04

Patriotic hearts

Patriotic hearts

Patriotic hearts


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May 04

Larkhall Festival

I had a very busy time on Saturday afternoon showing the Eastern fringe of Bath how to make little lavender hearts from what began as an old blanket. This was one of the larks of the Larkhall Festival.

Larkhall Festival - Scrap Heart Workshop

Larkhall Festival larks - scrap blanket workshop

Preparing on the Friday was fun; I was able to watch the royal wedding from behind a pair of scissors, cutting out 150 little individual hearts. Can you see how it influenced me as I compiled my groups of ten? No, neither can I.

Blanket hearts a la royale

Cutting out materials for the scrap blanket hearts

And I didn’t shed any tears. That was just blanket fluff in my eye, honest.

Then I grabbed a load of lavender.

Lavender jar

Big jar of lavender

And a few embroidery threads and balls of mohair (which I like to use for the blanket-stitching, though the latter’s not so very good for beginners as it tends not to behave). I took my trusty bunting (made twenty whole years ago for my very own wedding and loaned out since to a gazillion garden parties & fetes), and Mimi’s fish, just for the company and inspiration (“One day, small child, you could upcycle something like THIS!”)

Thanks to the very capable Polly for helping me out. And to everyone for being so patient while I made my way round to you to help thread needles, tie knots and finish off loose ends. Teaching sewing is fun. It’s such an eye-opener, for one thing. Polly asked one very small boy if he knew how to thread a needle. Yes, he replied. A couple of minutes later she looked back at his needle to find he’d meticulously wrapped his thread ever so neatly around the full length of it. Hmmm. I guess that would be one way to legitimately ‘thread a needle’, just not the one we were looking for. She could hardly bear to disappoint him by unfurling it again. That brought me up short as I realised that sewing terms, like any other technical jargon, are fraught with confusion for the complete novice. We quickly forget the strangeness of language, once we’ve digested and understood it.

I was aiming for this type of thing, but the results were more vibrant and various. Blanket stitch wasn’t always the stitch of choice for participants (even if they started out doing it, they frequently ended up producing something else, even if not intentionally) but there was plenty of personality, and I was delighted to see lots of personalising and initialising going on. The lavender seemed to be loved by all, and children were witnessed ‘losing their needles’ in the lavender box just so they could scrunch their fingers through it again and again. And why not? We were chilling. The needles were reassuringly blunt, by the way.

Though tolerant of irregularities and differences of approach (there’s usually more than one legitimate way of doing something) I find myself driven to correct one thing: tying a knot in the thread behind the needle. This one makes me twitch. I don’t know but assume (can anyone confirm?) that this is how sewing is taught in primary schools when kids work with Binca and yarn. I feel that this makes the yarn and needle behave a little oddly and try to encourage simply leaving a longer thread-tail. Am I alone in having this aversion?

I’ve decided I should get off my derriere and offer sewing upcycling classes. Venue tba, but somewhere in Bath. Do leave a comment or get in touch with me via my email (eirlysATscrapianaDOTcom) if you’d like information about these. Be sure to mention if you’d be interested in children’s or adults’ classes, and if daytimes, evenings or weekends suit you best. And don’t forget to leave a means of contacting you.


Dec 01

Wool hearts

Just a few more pictures of those scrap blanket-wool hearts, red-edged with green twine this time, as befits the season.

Blanket hearts (red & green)

Red & green scrap wool hearts

Heart tops

Red blanket-stitched edge

Blanket heart (red stitching)

Red-stitched heart

Blanket-stitch edges

Blanket stitch


Nov 29

Scrap of the Week #7

It’s the final countdown to Little Scraplet’s school Christmas fair this weekend, and I’m making as many blanket hearts as I can. The blanket in question was an old family one which was too far gone to be mended, so I decided its time was up: it was curtains for the blanket.

Blanket heart construction

Heart-making in progress

I gave it a good boil-wash before starting, then steam-pressed it. My template is a cookie cutter: no point reinventing the wheel.

I’ve been experimenting with different threads (embroidery floss, mohair, crochet cotton) with pleasing results; I really like the way pink mohair looks – it lifts the rather spartan blanket-weave – but haven’t taken shots of those hearts yet. The ones pictured use half a length of 6-strand embroidery cotton (so three strands) just out of habit; that’s how I was shown to used embroidery floss as a girl. The needle I used is a tapestry one, partly because it’s blunt (I may be showing kids how to make these), partly because it has a large eye to accommodate thick yarn. It gets through the rather loose weave of the blanket pretty well, though I think I’d prefer a chenille needle, with a large eye (like a tapestry) and with a pointed end.

Lavender stuffing

Stuffing with lavender

The loop is old linen upholstery string I had lying around. I knot the length of string and sandwich it between the two blanket hearts, cinching it in place with my first blanket stitch. Once I’ve blanket-stitched most of the way round, I teaspoon in the lavender stuffing before finishing off. There’s probably an easier and more efficient way, but this is mine.

Completed scrap heart

All done

A little rough and ready, though not without charm. They can decorate the Christmas tree, or go over a hanger to keep clothes fresh and moth-free. I hope the kids (and their parents) like them.

Before I go, I must tip my hat to the hugely talented Lisa who creates the most beautiful upcycled woollen hearts and who inspired me to have a go too, even if mine are a far cry from the perfection she manages to achieve.


Nov 23

Scrap kitty

All this talk of first sewing-machine experiences reminded me that jeans renovation featured prominently in mine. A previous incarnation of the skinny jean, c.1980, required them to look as though they had been sprayed on. I couldn’t afford to buy them (or maybe they weren’t even available to buy) so had to adapt what I had (straights? I think we’d already abandoned flares). As far as denim was concerned, this was the pre-Lycra era, making skin-tight pretty difficult to achieve. But with plenty of pinning, trimming, sewing and endless trying on (and peeling off), the more grimly determined teens among us got there. How sad that I can find no photographic evidence!

Well, I’m more likely to deconstruct jeans completely nowadays, and turn them into something else. Or sew on the odd knee-patch for Little Scraplet, who can hole a trouser in just one wearing. Little Scraplet’s friend’s 11th birthday party (actually back in September, but forgive me for being slow to post about it) sent me to my scrap bag looking for a suitable gift idea.

I leafed through Pip Lincolne‘s charmingly fun retro-styled Meet Me At Mike’s book and found a sweet kitty pattern. Looked good to me, and Little Scraplet approved. This is a really appealing project book, but I think there may have been a problem with the pattern-drafting (seam allowances omitted?) as I thought my kitty emerged looking like the one in the book after a celebrity crash-diet. And the instructions didn’t tell me to cut out the correct number of pieces (forgetting you need two for each arm and leg). Getting caught in an instruction-/pattern- failure ambush tends to puncture the ‘can-do’ approach just a little. I’m sufficiently experienced to read around the instructions and figure out how to fix it without the book’s help, but I thought it would be a pity for someone attempting a first project (the book’s real audience, I would guess) to be derailed so soon. End of rant. Well, it all came out OK in the end, though my kitty was a bit skinnier than she might have been.

Scrap kitty

Scrap kitty tries to relax

The rest of her is scrap or thrifted. Her face is cut from a felted 2nd-hand sweater. She’s stuffed with a 2nd-hand bag of unused toy stuffing (the stuff I find in cupboards!)  plus some lavender. She can’t be washed but smells s-o-o-o relaxing.

Scrap kitty face

Scrap cat close-up

I was slightly disappointed by her final mouth, realising that I liked the effect of the pin that had been holding her nose on during construction (vertical line and dot) and I should’ve tried to emulate that. Nevermind. Maybe another time.

Feedback on kitty was good. Sort of. Recipient’s older sister had purloined it as her mascot (she was taking exams), and was refusing to relinquish it. The mother cooed and said I should be making and selling them. Well, obviously I can’t ‘cos it’s not my pattern, but it’s a nice thought.

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Jul 19

Scrap of the Week #5

What am I making from scraps?

Curried magnolia petals?

I bought this turmeric-golden canvas remnant in a charity shop a while back. Somebody had marked it into quite small patchwork pieces and even cut a few out. It must have made for some heavy-weather patchwork-piecing, I’d have thought. No wonder it was dumped. But I liked the weave and knew the right project would come along. Can you see what I singled it out for?

See what it is yet?

Satisfyingly dense interfaced canvas

Having lined it with iron-on interfacing (it was just a tad unstable), I cut 6 symmetrical, magnolia petal-shaped pieces, sewed them together and…

A lovely pear!

…found a piece of scrap grosgrain ribbon for the top (more texture) and…

Giant pear doorstop

…stuffed it with lavender and grain. The result is heavy and yet sweetly scented enough to hold open the best of doors, allowing any fortunate guests crossing the threshold ample opportunity to utter: “What a lovely pear!”

Job done.

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