31.5.11

Love Birds

Dear Laura,

Well I have had a lovely weekend. The wedding finally arrived and it was a lovely day, beautiful and really good fun. The sun even broke through the clouds for the afternoon drinks on the lawn, perfect. Luckily I managed to finish all the birds in time and they looked so pretty on the tables.





Now I need to rest my head a little, age and drinks and late nights aren't as easy as they used to be.

The progress of the bird making can be found in these posts: Downton Dress

Lots of love

Annie




28.5.11

one

Dear Annie,

A year ago today, a midwife called Juliet opened our bedroom curtains to reveal a rising sun. "What a beautiful day to have a baby!" she said. It was a beautiful day, and he is a beautiful baby. This morning, at the very same time of day, in the very same bedroom, he woke up, opened his blue eyes and smiled. Happy first birthday, my sweet boy. 







Love from, 


Laura

27.5.11

first stitches & the kindness of strangers

Dear Annie,
My little man has had his first try at stitching, bless him! He found some sewing cards in a charity shop, which I was only too happy to buy for him. We threaded up a tapestry needle and he set to work with great concentration.

Everybody has to start somewhere...

  


The generosity of bloggers is a marvellous thing. When I heard that I'd won a giveaway over at driftwood, I really was chuffed. I knew that Tess was giving away one of her gorgeous felted wool free-embroidered lavender bags, which I'd admired on her blog before. When the parcel arrived, I wasn't disappointed. The bag was lovely, and she'd thrown in all manner of other handmade stitched goodies.







Isn't she clever? I was thrilled with it all, and tickled pink that the brooch co-ordinates so perfectly with my changing bag! Even the wrapping was pretty and handmade...there was actually some chocolate too, but that didn't stay around long enough for me to take any pictures of it (!)

People far more eloquent than me have reflected on the strange and often quite marvellous thing that is the community of people who blog, so I won't say much on the subject. Still, it's remarkable that someone that I have never met has evidently spent a good deal of time, care and skill to make such lovely things for me. Thank you so much, Tess- you made my day!

Love from,
Laura

25.5.11

Peas

Dear Laura,








The garden is blooming at the moment, I love having all the vegetables back there, every morning waking up and opening the blind to look to see how they are doing. 



I have always loved sweet peas and it turns out peas are equally as pretty as plants. And our peas are ready for eatings. 



Straight from the pod, yum yum yum



lots of love
Annie


23.5.11

stash musings

Dear Annie,

I have promised myself that with four projects currently in progress, I won't start anything new until I've completed at least one. However, there's nothing to stop me from taking a little bit of time out to peruse my stash and muse on possible projects to come...




I have rather a large piece (about two metres, I think) of this Sanderson 'Little Chelsea' print fabric. I picked it up a couple of years ago in a jumble sale for 50p. I love the big old-fashioned roses, but it's hard to know what to make with it that won't be too granny-fied. It's cotton, I think, but of a heavy duty furnishing weight. 



I really like the idea of a beanbag cover (image from this book). I think it would work well and in fact we already have a flokati rug and a painted chair, so would be missing only the cushion!


My collection of bluey-green fabrics is growing, and I'm dreaming of my next quilt. I'm toying with a simplified sort of log-cabin design, and have been enjoying looking for inspiration through this book, which focuses on the visual art of the quilt and considers quilts as if they were pictures. It was a steal at 50p from a second hand bookshop.



  
What I should be doing, however, is finishing my own quilt. It's going to be a gift and I'm working to a deadline, with only a fortnight left. It's been a while since I worked on it and I'm a little behind- I'm just finishing off the hand-quilting, and then I need to get on and bind it.


Better get stitching! 


Love from 


Laura 

22.5.11

Once upon a time

Dear Laura, 


Once upon a time, I didn't have a sewing box, or knitting needles and I most certainly didn't have a crochet hook. When I was growing up I did sew and I did knit but mainly I painted. I was lucky to have parents that didn't seem to mind me making a bit of a mesh and even allowed me to paint a giant mural straight on to my bedroom wall. The first painting that had an effect on me was Kandinsky "Swinging" it was in the tate and I just didn't want to move from it when I saw it. Kandinsky, Klee, and Miro are three of my favourite artists oh and I recently fell in love with Cy Twombly. When I left home, I left home with paint brushes and tubes of paint, these moved with me along with my clothes and bedding and kitchen utensils. Whenever I had the urge to create something it would be a painting or a drawing. This is the last painting I did, it is about 6 years old.

You see when I moved to Nottingham, for some reason I just didn't feel the urge to paint anymore. In fact I couldn't really think of anything to paint. The harsh urban industrial landscape I was living in no longer inspired me to pick up a brush. But strangely it did inspire me to pick up a needle and thread.




Nottingham was once a vast force in textiles and the old victorian lace factories still stand proudly today (mostly converted into nice modern flats). Hockley buzzes with boutiques and the fashion course at Nottingham Trent proudly produced Ted Baker.


And so when I moved from nottingham I packed up my brushes and paints for the last time and gave them away. Instead I put my material and wool into my case with my pins and needles and scissors and thread and moved those along with my clothes and bedding and kitchen utensils across the ocean and to their new home here in DC.
My bird making factory


Birds in their pairs ready for transit

I hope I will pick up a brush again one day but for now I am hooked on the sewing.

Lots of love

Annie

20.5.11

colour and cloth

Dear Annie,

Just a little more Italian sunshine for you. Look at the blue of that sky. I think blues and greens really are the colours that I'm drawn to at the moment.
 

I took a picture of this building on the square in Perugia, because I just loved the colours. The blue and the green look so perfect together, particularly with the distressed paint. I'd love to decorate a room in these shades.


Here are the other two skeins of yarn that I bought from Maradiana. Silk, this time, again hand-dyed using natural dyes. Almost exactly the same shade as the gorgeous aqua coloured building. The hydrangea fabric was my other little souvenir. It's oilskin for a tablecloth. I bought it from an amazing fabric shop in Umbertide which was full of gorgeous (but expensive) traditional linens.

 

I seemed to see lovely cloth everywhere. These brocade drapes were hanging from windows in Gubbio. A few streets away, also hanging from upstairs windows, I spotted some washing. D thought I was completely bonkers, taking photos of washing, but look...


Aren't the eiderdowns pretty? Most of all, though, I loved this knitted blanket. It looks like a patchwork of knitted spirals to create hexagons. I wonder if I could track down a similar pattern on Ravelry...


Love from,

Laura 

18.5.11

That Dress Again

Dear Laura,


It is lovely to have you back from your hols, and what lovely holidays they looked like they were, more pictures of Italy please, lush! Well I am all consumed by this dress I am making. Feeling confident that the outer dress kind of works and not quite ready to cut into that silk, I decided to make the inner dress first. The first issue I had was my lack of appropriate material. Now don't get me wrong I have a whole box of material a mass of wonderful patterns and colours. Plain white, light cotton, I do not have.




So what better than to rummage around upstairs and find an old bedsheet. This glamourous lifestyle I am sure is too much for you but a girls got to do what a girls got to do. I would like to stress that this is the underdress so I will be the only who knows that I am wearing a bedsheet to a wedding.




Somehow I lost the pattern I created for the back of the dress, I have no idea where it went, I probably through it away in some house cleaning freenzy. So I had to create another one. This was much easier the second time, and I also drew in the skirt properly this time too.




A piece of advice from the lady that wrote the book was to punch a hole in the pattern to mark the dart points. Genius! I am learning a lot I really am. So dart points marked and pattern cut out it was incredibly easy to put together. You know the seams matched and everything. What was even more amazing was that I did the darts before trying the dress on, you know what they worked, everything worked. When I put the dress on it fit perfectly, I was so astounded I danced around the kitchen in it trying to gets R's attention whilst he cooked dinner. He said something nice and went back to chopping. 





I wanted this to be a dress with no zip, but the darts make that impossible, in fact when I put on the dress it was a bit of a squash to get into it. Then this time as I was taking the dress off after the photo shoot, the side seam finally gave way a bit. Which I think is the sign that the dress needs a zip. Oh and I didn't mean to cut my head off, that is one of the perils of taking photos on self timer.


Lots of love


Annie

16.5.11

yarn farm

Dear Annie,

We've just come back from a glorious week in Italy. I went in search of sunshine and gelato. I came back with...yarn. Yes, apparently a truly obsessive knitter can discover yarn even deep in the Umbrian countryside.


This may appear to be pretty humdrum stuff, but in fact it's rather wonderful. It's 100% Alpaca, natural coloured, and as soft as can be.


I know what you're thinking, my sweet, but don't be alarmed. These are not llamas. They are the very alpacas who produced the lovely yarn. They live at Maradiana Alpaca farm.


It's the only farm in Italy which breeds alpaca,as well as angora goats and sheep,all to produce quality fibres for yarn. The fibres are spun locally and then used to produce beautiful knitwear, by loom or by hand.


It's the first time that I've ever met the creature who was the source of my yarn, and it was fabulous! The boys loved stroking the Alpacas, who were very friendly and amazingly soft, and they were very happy to find that the farm had a small playground built into the hillside.

 
I loved looking at all the beautiful jumpers, blankets and scarves, but was delighted to discover that there were also a few balls and skeins of yarn available to buy. D has already requested that I make him a scarf with the soft brown alpaca yarn. 

 
I also couldn't resist this skein of mixed angora and wool, hand dyed using natural indigo dye. It looks like lace-weight to me, so I am thinking that perhaps it would like to become a shawl one day.

  
So there you have it. We were lucky enough to enjoy plenty of sunshine; we ate gelato every day, and, quite unexpectedly, we managed to visit a yarn farm.

Oh, and can you believe that this is our 100th post?! Amazing. If we can reach 100 followers too, I feel a giveaway coming on, don't you?

Love from,
Laura




14.5.11

Dresses and Colbert

Dear Laura,


I have had quite an exciting week, not as exciting as yours I am sure but still quite exciting. I am going to a wedding in a couple of weeks, you might have heard me mention it before. I have been asked to wear a certain colour dress, so I traipsed around some lovely vintage stores in DC and tried on some beautiful dresses but unfortunately either they were too expensive or just not right, so I decided to stick with my first instinct which was to make my own. Now for once I wanted to do this properly so I dug out my "how to make a pattern" book. This seems like it is from the 80's but it also seemed to be the clearest and simplest in the shop.




And I measured. I measured and measured, tape measure in mouth, hands everywhere, twisted body, trying to get the shoulder back measurement. Eventually I made it all measurements complete, now for the parchment paper a ruler and a pen. Oh and my maths brain. 




I scribbled and scrawled away remeasuring sometimes just to make sure that I had it right and then there it was the pattern for the back.




and for the front!



Now I only did the bodice as I think I can do the skirt free hand, I will still measure it but I don't need to create a pattern for it. Below is some lovely silk that I found in my favourite G Street Fabrics store. 




Normally I would just start cutting but this silk was expensive and I didn't want to ruin it. Or end up with a rather revealing dress because of all the cutting that might occur for corrections. So I made a mockup, which I learnt the other day was called something like a twirl (although now I can't quite remember). It was really interesting. There were a couple of issues with the pattern so I will have to redo it slightly. 




Mainly the arm holes are too large so I need to just make those a tiny bit smaller. What was really interesting was how to make the the pattern so that I didn't need any tucks on the front. You draw the tucks on to the pattern and then tuck them on the pattern and re cut. Not very well explained but it was very clever. So I can only give you a picture of the mock up for now. This weekend I will make the real thing and will show you the results once I have it ready to go. (The photos aren't very good sorry, it is really hard to take photos of yourself!)





So why Dresses and Colbert? Well, I was happily glancing at facebook at work yesterday when I noticed that Stephen Colbert was coming to DC. I am a big Colbert fan and so at 3.45pm I packed up my desk, turned off my computer and headed down to the FEC to watch Stephen files some papers, and I wasn't the only one, that's right that is the kind of effect he has!



Lots of love


Annie
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