Tuesday, 23 November 2010

heirloom treasures workshop

I'm sitting down with a large glass of wine feeling exhausted and elated by our first workshop.

Our aim was to give everyone an enjoyable, inspiring day in a relaxed atmosphere with plenty of good food as sustenance while they learnt how to make their own heirloom treasure. The morning was spent with Sarah giving ideas on design and colour palettes before she showed everyone some hand embroidery stitches and demonstrated machine techniques which they could practice before lunch. A large cookie jar was placed on the table and I scurried around ensuring everyone had plenty of tea and coffee to keep them going.

After a simple, warming lunch of Tuscan Butter Bean soup and fresh baked foccaccia everyone had the chance to design their own heirloom treasure, have a good rummage through our scrap boxes and put into practice the techniques they learnt this morning.

While Sarah and I have quite a distinct style we did not want the course to be to prescriptive, encouraging people to experiment. It was very interesting to see what different ideas and approaches came from the days work and standard of the work produced. It is amazing what you can achieve in a day, especially when you have a bit of direction, an expert (Sarah) at your finger tips and uninterrupted time.

By the end of the day some people were able to take home a finished piece. Others went home with folders bulging with samples and all they needed to finish their projects at home (with the instructions to send us a picture of the completed product in due course!). But hopefully everyone went home inspired, with new found confidence in their sewing abilities, and a warm glow.

Thank you everyone who joined us, and for all the positive feedback. We're really looking forward to our Christmas Stocking workshop on December 6th, with plans for more in 2011.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

liberty birds

Those of you who have been following the blog for a while will know that both Sarah and I have a thing about birds.

I also have a thing about Liberty Tana Lawn. It all stems from the Liberty Gift vouchers my Scottish Grandparents used to send me for Christmas. Whilst there was a small Liberty haberdashers in Bath what I really enjoyed was visiting the original shop. Although we had beautiful tana lawn smocked dresses handmade by my mother, they were for parties. For going UP to London we would wear our kilts (with their homemade calico bodices).

Once inside the flagship London store I was in my element. I loved the heavy timber beams and the atrium where you could look upwards and see everything on offer in the amazing emporium. I spent my vouchers on stuffed frogs and dogs, pin cushions, little photo frames, big photo frames - and they all had one thing in common. Everything I ever bought was Liberty Print tana lawn.

The nostalgic familiarity of these prints are what encouraged me to make my covered buttons and lavender cushions that I sell at fairs and I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised to find that other people have the same affiliation with these prints as I do.

One such person is Kathy Hutton, I met her at a fair and instantly fell in love with her work. The combination of familiar tana lawn prints, birds, washing lines and screen printing is a killer for me!

Monday, 15 November 2010

butternut squash and chestnut soup

Today was a beautiful winters day. We woke up to a hard frost which thawed into a glorious, crisp, clear, sunny day. Perfect for striding across the common rather than shopping in Sainsburys! This sign that winter is truly on its way led me into the kitchen at lunchtime to make one of my favourite soups. It has such a thick, velvety texture its irresistible and now I've enough to last me a couple more frosty days.

To make:

Soften 1 medium onion in a pan

Add a peeled and diced butternut squash, pour over some water (enough to soften the squash in but not too much water as the texture is part of the appeal of this soup) salt, pepper, some herbs and a stock cube

Add the secret weapon, a can of Merchant Gourmet's pureed chestnuts (available in most supermarkets). Bring to the boil and let bubble gently till the squash has cooked, then whizz in the blitzer to make smooth.

This is how I make it as hubby is vegetarian, then I add bits of bacon and pumpkin seeds as decoration. For those who do appreciate the flavour of meat, add some lardons when you are frying the onions it makes the soup taste even better

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

petit pomanders

It's fairly hectic in the Pope household at the moment, along with the flurry of daily school activities in the run up to Christmas Sarah & I also have a couple of Christmas Fairs next week and then our much anticipated workshops. And whilst I feel like I've been working flat out my 'To-do' list is increasing by the minute. So it's probably not surprising that yesterday afternoon I decided to forget it all for a while and sat down with the baby to make some pomanders for Christmas.
I love the traditional colours and themes of Christmas but I also enjoy going mad and we've loads of bright coloured baubles that I tie to the tree with contrasting ribbons. I thought that this year it may be nice to go kind of 'citrus & neon'-ish in the kitchen (I wonder what colour theorists would say about such a combination in a room that you eat in). And while Christmas is still a while away pomanders are good to make in advance and hide away in a cool dark place to bring out again when it's time to decorate. Typically they are made with oranges, but I used clementines (which are really easy for little hands to push cloves into) and limes (which are really hard and I had to use a cocktail stick to help me). The fruit should shrink as it dries out so you need to leave a bit of a gap in between the cloves to allow for this. Tied with ribbon (secured with a pin) these should look lovely in a months time.

Fingers crossed!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

turning toile on its head

I had been looking for a pretty toile de jouy design to add to my fabric and wallpaper range for ages. So I thought I would ask an expert! the lovely Donna Flower came up trumps as always and found me a section of an old 18th century french wallpaper, so with some tweeking, rejigging and expert redrawing (not by me - people are not my strong point - they always come out looking like gnomes!) here are teh colourways of my new jardin toile.
It is a very beautiful design, there are none of the grizzly hunting scenes or ugly bits which often appear in traditional toiles, however when you look closely there is alot going on. I kept looking for an interesting garden name to call it based on some kind of pleasure garden- (there seems to be quite a bit of flirtation going on in the design!) however, when i started the business I swore to myself i wouldn't give any of my designs impossible to pronounce names, because it causes all manner of difficulties for customers and sales people alike, so even though 'tuileries' and 'medici' (well i couldn't call it 'boboli' toile could I!!) were strong contenders, I think I will keep it simple, unless any of you dear readers can come up with a better suggestion.....