My top 10 posts of 2015

I've not done this before, but being a bit of a data nerd I'm not sure why I haven't. Anyway, I was keen to see which of my posts had the most views - and I was surprised to discover which they were.

1. 52 Cookbooks #2: Lamb Dopiaza

ricksteinindia52cookbooksnumber2.jpg

I wrote this post back in January 2014 and it was just the second in the challenge I took part in to use a different one of my cookbooks for each week of the year.

I am rather partial to a lamb dopiaza and it seems so are many other people as this post was my most viewed post.

It really was a good curry, perhaps even I'll cook it again - but I wouldn't say this was my best post, so I'm baffled as to why it's here at number 1.

I suspect people are looking for Rick's recipe and find my post instead...

 

 

2. Our Ride London

I'm less surprised that this post is at the top end of the list, as MOH shared the link with everyone who'd sponsored him so they could get a feel for how the day went. It was a really enjoyable day - even though it was a very early start and I suspect I enjoyed it more than perhaps MOH did as I wasn't cycling the 100 miles! 

MOH WITH HIS MEDAL 

MOH WITH HIS MEDAL 

3. A coat of paint and some new cushions

This was one of my favourite posts and another that I'm not surprised features on this list. I'd bought some old metal garden chairs on eBay and finally got around to painting them a cheery yellow and making some new cushions for them. The painting I was fine with, but it was my first foray into sewing cushions and really I just made it up as I went along with some common sense, help from the internet and guidance from mum.  

And of course I didn't make it easy for myself by deciding to add piping to the cushions, but I really do think that makes it.

4. Gorgeous Gift Tags

Another craft post. This one though was published on 14 December to coincide with the Crafty Advent Calendar that Prestigious Textiles ran throughout December. 

I'm surprised - and pleased - that this post is so high on the list. The gift tags are gorgeous and were much easier to do than you think - there's a tutorial on the post, so have a go if you don't believe me!

THESE COULD EASILY BE ADAPTED FOR A NON-CHRISTMASSY VERSION

THESE COULD EASILY BE ADAPTED FOR A NON-CHRISTMASSY VERSION

5. Inspired by MADE London

I'm pleased to see this post in the top 10 as it was a lovely night out. We'd dashed into town one October evening as Tutton & Young had invited me to the private view of this event held in One Marylebone and also included a +1 ticket for MOH. It was just as well he was there as otherwise I'm sure I'd have bought lots more than I did!

But I left inspired. We truly have some fabulous crafters and makers in the UK, and they were on the whole generous with their time and talking about their craft. In fact I left so inspired it spawned a whole series of blog posts, which I'm sure there's still a few more to come.

WAITING OPPOSITE ONE MARYLEBONE FOR MOH TO ARRIVE

WAITING OPPOSITE ONE MARYLEBONE FOR MOH TO ARRIVE

6. Inside the house at Standen

It seems only right that there's a visit to a National Trust property in this list. This was a post about our visit back in April which coincided with the tulip festival they held in honour of the house's designer Phillip Webb. 

It was a lovely sunny day and even though it was April we spent quite a lot of our visit sitting on the terrace in the sun. We did go inside and it was one of those houses that you can just imagine living in. The thing that struck me though was just how restrained we are in our use of patterns today. I mean, how many different patterns can you count in the shot below?!

7. My IKEA hack: HOL storage table to laundry basket

Well, I'm taking this as proof that everyone likes an IKEA hack!  I wrote this post back in July and included it in my review of the year in photos too, mainly because it was another sewing project I'd tackled without a pattern, and another one that turned out really well.  

8. My week this week: New

This is one of my weekly round-up posts where I share what's happened that week. Of these posts I'm not surprised that this one was most popular as it's the one where I went back to work after almost a twenty month break. It's nice to know that these posts can be as big hitters as some of my other posts.

9. Show Gardens at the Ideal Home Show

Another post from April - clearly that was a big month for me! This time though it's one from my visit to the iconic Ideal Home Show which I went to for the first time in many years. I went to this off my own back because I am interested in seeing what's new in the homes and gardens world. 

I spent the day there but it wasn't until the evening that I discovered these show gardens which were designed and built by students from the top UK horticultural colleges in just a few days as part of the Ideal Young Gardeners of the Year competition.  

All of the gardens tackled how to deal with excess rainwater, which given the scenes we've seen in the north of England this Christmas is ironic, and in reality these wouldn't come anywhere close to dealing with those.  Even so, the gardens were fab and not something I remember from previous Ideal Home Shows.

10. New Prints and Jacquards from Prestigious Textiles for Autumn/Winter

I wrote this post early October after my visit to the Prestigious Textiles stand as part of the London Design Festival. I'd been invited along and it was great to see the new range and talk to the PT team. The craft projects I was inspired to do have been slower than I anticipated but they're still very much on the go and I'll be sharing those in the next few weeks.

I've worked with Prestigious Textiles since, taking part in the Crafty Advent Calendar and my post for the Gorgeous Gift Tags came in at number four on this list. They do have lovely fabric and I hope to work with them again in 2016.

Photo credit:  Prestigious Textiles

Photo credit: Prestigious Textiles

So there you have it, my top ten posts. I told you at the start that they were quite a mixture and some were a surprise for me and others were the ones I expected. A fun - and useful -  exercise and my nerd tendencies are satisfied. It'll be interesting to repeat this again next year...

 

Gorgeous Gift Tags

You may have seen that Prestigious Textiles have a crafty advent calendar this December. Each day there's a snazzy new craft idea and there's been some real corkers so far. The wallpaper stars from day 10 are definitely going on my "to make" list.

So when they got in touch and asked if I wanted to get involved by choosing a day and making my own version of their prompt, of course I said yes. So by now you'll have worked out that I chose day 14 and gorgeous gift tags. 

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So let's get started.

You'll need:

  • material squares in Christmas fabrics, my squares are two inches
  • plain gift tags, or card and twine to make your own
  • pins
  • needle & thread
  • scissors
  • glittery or glitzy embellishments
  • buttons

.

Inspired by my mum and the decorative additions she'd added to a new bag she'd made I decided to try my hand at Kanzashi. Yes exactly, I'd not heard of it before either - but mum assured me it was easy. It certainly looked impressive so I was in.

Kanzashi are decorative hair ornaments used in Japanese hairstyles and often worn by brides and geisha in tea ceremonies. The folded fabric flower kanzashi is just one type and that's what I'm going to add to my gift tag to make it gorgeous. I'm going to embellish them with some glitzy trimmings and then add a button as the flower centre. 

That's the plan anyway!

To make the kanzashi

1. Each of our two inch squares will make one petal. Take one of the squares and fold in in half diagonally and then fold the corners down towards your hand.

step1.jpg

2. Turn your folded fabric over and fold both tips of the "side" corners to the centre, see below.

step2.jpg

3. Now add a pin through the folds.

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4. Repeat the steps above to make as many petals as you need. The finished flower will be approximately the same size as the squares you started with, so in this case two inches. For this size I found seven petals worked best, but you can choose if you add more, or less.

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5. When you have the number of petals you need, trim each petal to remove the "bulk" of the material at the non-folded end.

step5.jpg

6. Ensuring all of your petals face the same way, thread them onto a length of cotton leaving both ends of the thread long.

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7. Pull the thread tight so the petals come together and form a circle, then knot the thread. I added a few stitches to keep the petals where I wanted them.

step7.jpg

8. Next I took some glitzy fabric trimmings and cut a length of about two inches. For each I sewed a loose running stitch on one edge and once again pulled that tight to form a rosette and attached it to the kanzashi.  I added a button in the centre, which not only finishes the flower, but it also covers my sewing. 

For the first gift tag I used a spotted craft button and omitted the glitzy trimming, for the other two gift tags I used an old shirt button. Then I replaced the gift tag string with a beaded string.

I'm rather pleased with my gorgeous gift tags, what do you think?

gorgeousgifttags.jpg

With thanks to Prestigious Textiles for the challenge and for the Christmas fabrics.

Inspired by MADE London

On Thursday evening after work MOH and I headed into town towards Great Portland Street and ONE Marylebone - a Sir John Soane church and also the venue for MADE London, the design and craft fair. I'd been invited to the private view evening ahead of the show's opening the next day. It closes today, so if you didn't get to go along, don't worry I've got lots to share with you - and there's always next year.

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While I was waiting for MOH to arrive I amused myself by taking pictures of the venue and London's traffic whizzing by.  It wasn't long before he arrived and we made our way across the road and into the show.

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There were four floors of amazing makes for us to explore. We - as tradition dictates - started on the ground floor and immediately I saw this intricate plate/bowl by Waka Artisans. The detail was amazing.  

WAKA ARTISANS

WAKA ARTISANS

As we turned the corner we couldn't help but admire these modern side tables by Forge Creative. Aren't they great?

FORGE CREATIVE

FORGE CREATIVE

Already inspired it was time to hit us with some colour. These lampshades, vases and plates by Aline Johnson definitely do that. These vases are a great way to display tulips, the colours too focus your attention on the flowers.

ALINE JOHNSON

ALINE JOHNSON

ALINE JOHNSON

ALINE JOHNSON

I was quite taken with the glass plate (or dish, or what have you) bottom left in the photo above. As well as the colour way, the thing that really caught my attention was the matt-ness of this piece. So different to its shiny cousins alongside it.

We weren't quite done with colour yet either. 

This rainbow display of knitwear by Ollive Zwitserlood was simple but effective and eye catching.

OLLIE ZWITSERLOOD KNITWEAR

OLLIE ZWITSERLOOD KNITWEAR

These ceramic picture boxes by Maria Wojdat were also a favourite of mine.  I was curious about how these were made. Maria explained that each piece of clay is cut to size, sprayed with colour and fired and then placed in its frame. The combinations of colour ways are endless.

MARIA WOJDAT

MARIA WOJDAT

I realised Thursday evening that I have a weakness for ceramics as I stopped at almost each ceramics stand. The simple lines and clean display of these by Justine Allison really appealed to me. Of course, I have no need for them but that doesn't stop me liking them!

JUSTINE ALLISON

JUSTINE ALLISON

These hooks made by John Egan made me smile. Their shape amused me and John explained that he likes to use as much of the tree as possible and these are shaped from branches. There's a clever design feature two as they glide onto a fixing on the wall meaning that they can get close to the wall and look as great as these. The multi-coloured wood (fourth and seventh from the left) was my favourite and I was surprised to learn that it was Yew.

JOHN EGAN

JOHN EGAN

JOHN EGAN

JOHN EGAN

We spent a lot of time talking about the eye catching hooks, but John also produces some fantastic furniture, take this bench for example. It uses the natural shape of the wood and I think John's one of the few people who relishes the aftermath of a storm as that means a supply of new materials to work with.

After making sure we'd seen every stand on the ground floor, we headed downstairs to the Crypt and the two floors of makers in these areas. This bright and cheery bird by Amanda Anderson certainly welcomed us into that space.

AMANDA ANDERSON

AMANDA ANDERSON

We saw lots in this part of the show and spoke to many of the makers and I will share more of what I saw there in future posts soon.

With the stands in the Crypt looked up we headed back upstairs and then up another floor to the mezzanine floor. Immediately it was these pictures by Ann Nazareth that caught my eye. They're made of spun paper, and Ann clearly has a lot of patience...

ANN NAZARETH

ANN NAZARETH

The sheen on these spoons made by Stuart Jenkins caught my eye, and like many of the makers he encouraged us to touch and pick up his items. They look heavy, but aren't as heavy as you'd expect and the ladle which I tried would definitely add a touch of class to any soup. I left trying to find a way to bring something like this into my life - so far, I've failed but I'm still working on it!

STUART JENKINS

STUART JENKINS

This jumper by Sasha Kagan also caught my eye. I'm a lapsed knitter but something like this could tempt my knitting needles out I'm sure. I liked the design, the colours and the bobble details on the rib. Sasha kindly offered me the opportunity to try it on and I was tempted. There were two things that stopped me though - the temperature on the mezzanine floor, and because I had a black top on and I thought there was a high chance I'd end up with white fluff all over it.

SASHA KAGAN

SASHA KAGAN

SASHA KAGAN

SASHA KAGAN

This cardigan too caught my eye. For me it has a touch of art deco about it - what do you think?

The yellow straps of this bag by Rosie Moss caught my eye and I soon made a beeline for it. After a while I spotted the gloved hands and I very nearly left with it. In fact there were so many things I could have left with had I been so inclined. I did make a purchase which you might have seen on my Facebook and Instagram feeds already, but more on that another time.

ROSIE MOSS

ROSIE MOSS

We also spoke with Rosie about our fascination with hares, something she shares too. And that pink hoppy cushion is a fab example of her work.

ROSIE MOSS

ROSIE MOSS

We were almost done and the glasses of fizz as we wandered around kept us going, thank you to Tutton and Young for inviting me along. It was an inspiring show with so many makers that were keen to talk about their creations.

The last items that I'm sharing today are these Moth Balls and Bee Bug Balls by Claire Moynihan. They have a museum feel to them, but when you look more closely they're not quite what they seem.

CLAIRE MOYNIHAN

CLAIRE MOYNIHAN

Claire hand embroiders British insects onto felt balls. She processes local alpaca wool to produce the felt balls and stitches three dimensional insects onto their surface. They are just beautiful.

CLAIRE MOYNIHAN

CLAIRE MOYNIHAN

I definitely left feeling inspired and proud to be British and of the talent we have, which was clearly evidenced by the items and the people we met throughout the evening.

 

Disclaimer: I was given free entry to the MADE London show in return for this review, however all words and opinions are my own.