Thursday, 25 November 2010

Doodle Series - Monarchs - Matilda of Flanders

It's been super interesting researching royal history to find my next subject. There are so many obscure monarchs that I have never before heard of!
For my next doodle, I chose Matilda of Flanders, Queen of the English. It was this that really tickled me.

According to legend, when Duke William II of Normandy (later known as William the Conqueror) sent his representative to ask for Matilda's hand in marriage, she told the representative that she was far too high-born, to consider marrying a bastard. After hearing this response, William rode from Normandy to Bruges, found Matilda on her way to church, and dragged her off her horse by her long braids, threw her down in the street in front of her flabbergasted attendants, and rode off.

Gosh, what a way to start married life! You can read more about Matilda here.


Sorry you can only see half of the image again, I am having difficulty resizing photos on this blog, it is driving me slightly mad. To view the full size version, visit my Flickr photostream here.
To those of you State side, who are celebrating Thanksgiving today, Happy Holidays to you!


Wednesday, 24 November 2010

A Stocking for Christmas

Well, so much for one handmade gift per child, try 3 on for size, THREE!
Ambear bust in on me yesterday when I was working on the surprise cushion, I hastily stuffed it back in the bag, and had to fathom an excuse RE the sewing machine poised ready for action and various fabric scraps here, there and everywhere.
"What are you making Mum?" she asks.

Now, I realise, in hindsight (such a beautiful thing!) that I should have been honest, and said actually Amber, I am working on your Christmas treat, so on your bike! (That means 'get lost' in British btw).
Instead, I fumbled and stuttered and declared, "I am making you a Christmas stocking!"
Why? WHY?! I don't even know HOW to make a Christmas stocking.
"Oh cool" says she "Are you making one for Hoozel, Boo and Bear too?"
"But of course!" says I. Three words spring to mind. Glutton For Punishment.

Anyway, the hole I had dug was to deep, there was no way out. The stockings must be made. The children insisted on choosing their own fabrics too. Being as Ambear was the perpetrator of this plan, I made hers first. I made a stocking shaped template with an old cereal box, cut the shapes out, forgot to account for seams, scrapped the shapes and cut them out again, this time with seam allowance. I wanted a fold over top in contrasting fabric, but I sewed these on wrong, facing out, by accident, in my typically bungling fashion, so they don't fold, but they look pretty all the same. The stocking emerged from the work table barely 90 minutes later, freshly ironed and was presented to Ambear.

"Oh COOOL!" says She "Can you embroider my name on to it?"
Cue much muttering under ones breath, and a great few expletives once the child had departed. I embroidered Ambers name on to a white scrap, stitched it to another white scrap, right sides together, with the intention of making a reverse applique.
I reversed it, and it was crooked, pissed as a fart, wonky donkey all the way to timbuktu. It looked SHIT.
So, I stitched some fabric to the reverse, and attached it as a kind of homespun wonky gift tag instead. Phew, I present it to Ambear.
"Oh thanks Mum! I really like it... can you just..."
NO! It's finished, begone with you child, I have three more of these things to make.


Anyhow, the requests have since flooded in from the children. A Book bag and doll for Amber, a Bag for Hoozels PE kit and a bear (ffs), Boo needs a bag for her farmyard and animals, Bear needs a quilt (though I do not think I am quite ready to tackle a quilt yet), they have given me a list, a LIST. Just ideas apparently, they say, hopefully, raising their eyebrows and carefully pointing out the vintage linens they want me to masacre for their projects.
Thank goodness we are visiting our home in France this Christmas, I will be sure to return laden with my fabric stash, so that the mass genocide of my vintage bed linens can stop. Assuming I have not hurled myself into the river by then, phew, am feeling the pressure a bit now!

What gifts are you making for the holidays?

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Doodle Series - Monarchs

I was sifting through some of my doodles recently, and realised that they truly are doodles in the most doodley sense, that is to say, I prepare pens and paper, sit, think and draw. None of my doodles are pre meditated, I simply draw what comes to mind, and that really, is the essence of a doodle, don't you think?
There is something inexplicably calming about allowing ones thoughts to wonder, usually in the most colourful and fantastical way. In my doodling daydreams there are toadstools and butterflies, birdies and rainbows, houses made of gingerbread and always a blue sky, oh yes.

I do enjoy doodling so, it is also the easiest creative outlet for me to fit into my day, as the children are always keen to join me when the pens and paper come out, and thus we are quite often found, one little (or large?) family, silent, or often noisily, scribbling away at the dining room table.

I decided though, that it would be fun to give myself a doodling project, a theme perhaps, as I have noticed that as of late, most all my doodles contain gingerbread houses, toadstools and birdies and what not, and well, it started to get a bit "samey", so after much thought, I settled on the theme of Monarchs.
Royal history is fascinating, don't you think? I had so much fun researching the different monarchs from years gone by, there are just so so many. My foray into history really spurred me on and it was oh so difficult to choose my first subject, but choose I did.

I am not going to limit myself to only great British monarchs, but England has such a rich history and the royal family are an endless source of fascintaing facts and imagery, it was difficult not to begin on home turf.
I knew I wanted to start with a she rather than a he, and as soon as I read about Queen Elizabeth the First, I knew it was she who would feature in the first of my Monarchs doodle series.

So Elizabeth and I spent a fair bit of time getting acquainted, at least I got to know her somewhat. I have to say she was not at all interested in me, given my civilian, bordering on peasant, status.

Very few portraits of Queen Elizabeth 1 exist, apparently the many artists enlisted to paint her Majesty failed to accurately capture her charm and elegance, so most all art works resulting from these sittings were destroyed. I broached this with the Queen and mentioned that a "little birdie" had told me that the true reason was that actually, she was a bit of a minger, wore too much led paint on account of her horrendously pock marked face, and had horrid rotten teeth and piggy eyes. Needless to say, such a comment did not go down well, though I did promise to try and succeed where others had failed and create a most charming portrait.

So, I would be of course be lying had I said it was Elizabeths apparent (or lack of) grace and charm that inspired me to choose her as my subject. It was, in truth, her strength, her absoloute dedication to her country and her oh so inspiring speeches, she was a true leader, a strong woman indeed.

See my Flickr for full size images.

I dare say, Elizabeth thought it quite gaudy and complained I made her look like a faintly surprised clown. I pointed out at least her eyes are not beady and that the colours in her dress would have been much coveted, being as such vibrant colours were not commonly available in those times.

I implore you to read a little about her, and see if you too can be inspired by her strength and the difficult times in which she reigned, fascinating stuff, oh yes.
I leave you with this, Queen Elizabeths speech to her troops as they prepared for battle with the Spanish Armada.

I am come amongst you at this time, not as for my recreation or sport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all; to lay down, for my God, and for my kingdom, and for my people, my honor and my blood, even the dust. I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart of a king, and of a king of England, too; and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realms: to which, rather than any dishonor should grow by me, I myself will take up arms; I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field.

Queen Elizabeth I - 1588

Monday, 22 November 2010

Scratching the creative itch, rather badly

I have set myself a quite overwhelming challenge to create each of my sproglets a christmas gift, now I do have just (just!) four children, and with almost 5 weeks to go to christmas, one gift a week doesn't seem so impossible - but I get so little time to create, and I am SO slow at pretty much everything, sewing, embroidery, drawing, I like to take my time and get it right. With just over 4 weeks to go, I would be lying if I said I was not a little overwhelmed.

Anyway, I have made a start, a rather slow start. I hit upon the idea of making a cushion for Ambear, using an embroidery which I started 3 years ago (I told you I am slow!) and really ought to finish and make use of. So, I have no fabric, well, not much, and mostly little scrappy pieces that I found at the bottom of the bag

, so in my infinite wisdom, I figured I would use said scrappy pieces to create a patchwork border for the embroidery, and ta-da I would have a cushion front. The embroidery is my own design and features Ambear and her precious Sleepy Bear.

However, the bag was sadly lacking in such tools as rotary cutters and cutting mats and even a decent pair of scissors, actually the only pair of scissors I currently have in my possesion are either teeny weeny embroidery scissors or blunt as a donkeys ass kitchen scissors, can you tell where I am heading with this?

Yes, my patchwork pieces were all pissed, I figured that was ok as I could sew them together straight and um, that didn't happen, and before I knew it, well, I had one seriously pissed piece of patchwork, that wouldn't even iron right, with crazy fat and irregular seams. So my first attempt at patchwork is a complete bungle, the donkey with the blunt ass could have done a better job, but oh well. Here it is anyways.



Notice the lack of eye popping colour, Ambear prefers muted tones, so I did my best to cater for her taste with my small selection of vintage scraps, this will be a completed cushion this week,very soon, before christmas. Sigh.

Boo has been playing with her train set a whole lot recently, and has been dragging it from pillar to post in a rather tired looking plastic grocery bag, so out came the sewing machine (which is fast becoming my firm friend, now that I know how to thread her up etc) and an old vintage pillow case, and this nifty little drawstring bag was made. It seemed a bit plain on it's own, so I embroidered a train design to applique on to the front.



I reeeeally should have put this away for christmas, although she also needs a bag for her building blocks, wooden farm and animals and oh the list goes on, back to the sewing machine goes I....
What have you been sewing lately?

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Apple Compote for Breakfast

Around this time of year, we make the most of the ripe fruits that abound at Autumn by preserving them. There are two apple trees at River Cottage, but these had long since given up their bounty before we arrived.
I was feeling a bit of a pang for the mountains of fresh fruit we would be picking if at home in France, and after discussing this with the children and finding they shared that sentiment, we had to concede it is simply not cost effective to make your own raspberry, strawberry or apricot jam (our favourites!) when you have to buy the fruit.

The Hoozel asked if, as a compromise, I could make some Apple Compote. This is very much a staple in France, children eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or sometimes all three! Hoozel loves to dollop it on to muesli with greek yoghurt, with ice cream or rice pudding, or alone with hunks of crusty bread. The latter never much appealed to me, but it is very much common place in France.

Anyway, how could I refuse? Apples are not as pricey as berries so I picked up some Bramley apples and set to work, and I share the recipe with you here.


If you have never made compote, or are not sure what it is, rest assured it is super easy and super tasty! A compote is basically any chopped up fresh fruit, simmered in sugar syrup. It is only a small amount of sugar, so it won't set or preserve like jam/jelly, but it keeps in the fridge for around two weeks and freezes well.

8 Bramley Apples (or other fresh fruit)
Sugar approx 100g
Butter approx 100g
Spices such as ginger or cinammon can be added if you like
And the most indespensible ingredient of all, LOVE :)

I have stated how many apples I used, I rarely weigh anything, unless I am baking, and prefer to add sugar to taste, being as I made it for the children, the less sugar the better, but feel free to pile it in with reckless abandon until it tastes just so, but I would say 150g should be the maximum, otherwise you're getting into jam territory and it will set.

1/ Peel, core and chop the apples into chunks. Melt the butter in a heavy based pan/pot and throw in the apple chunks, return to the heat (medium) and stir until all the apple is coated with the butter.

2/ Add around 100g of sugar and stir in, continue to stir until the apple begins to breakdown and become mushy. Reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer and leave for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick.

How long it takes depends on the types of apples or fruit you use, so use the time as a guideline only, once your compote is smooth and all the apples have collapsed, it is ready.
Store it in the fridge in sterilised jars for up to two weeks. 8 large Bramley apples will make 3-4 jars.


Hazel heaped it on her muesli this morning, and swore she could taste the love in it <3

Rediscovering the bottom of the bag

The duvet cover on our bed is possibly 10 years old. Simon brought it with him when he moved in with me, I never really liked it much and for the most part it has been relegated to the back of the cupboard. However, it seems to have somehow ended up being the only duvet cover we brought with us to the UK. It is perfectly fine except for having lost it's buttons many moons ago, resulting in the entire duvet being on it's ass each morning and the duvet cover on the floor.

Honestly, I don't know why it has taken me so long to get my act together and stitch new buttons on to it, what can I say? I am a slovenly bitch like that (as my mother likes to remind me).
Anyway, I finally stitched on the buttons, a variety of multi coloured pretty buttons from my sewing box, Simon was slightly alarmed to see his old brown duvet cover updated so, and asked why the buttons could not match. I on the other hand, felt illogically, insanely pleased, isn't it funny how such a simple task as repairing some loved and worn part of ones home, can give you such a sense of achievement, or am I just a fool?

When we left France, we left in a car, leaving pretty much all our wordly belongings at the house, to be collected another time - that time has yet to come!
Given that we had one cars worth of space only, I had to pack pretty wisely, clothes and bedding went in first, a selection of the childrens favourite toys and books, and by the time I got around to considering my crafty wares, there really was not much room, so I stuffed as much as I could into one large shopping bag.

Most all of my fabric was left behind, save for a couple of pieces. I started digging around that bag last night, and found a whole load of unifinished projects, one being a pillow case, embroidered with birdies, the transfer is from Jenny Hart's Sublime Stitching- which I highly recommend if you have never embroidered and wish to try, it is so user friendly! I think I perhaps started this project almost 3 years ago, and just one birdie remained to be stitched, so stitched it I did, and now the pretty pillow sits atop Hazels bed, and I am pleased as punch!


There are other projects to be completed, and all of a sudden, being wthout my stash doesn't seem such bad news, it is a great time to make good and complete previous works.