Trengwainton National Trust Gardens in Penzance – Royal Scarecrows?!

There is a hidden treasure lurking through the back roads of Penzance… the pathway to Trengwainton National Trust gardens. I can’t say I have ever been anywhere just to visit gardens, but I’m so glad I found Trengwainton earlier in the year. The kitchen gardens are amazing, like going back in time and seeing how large houses had walled gardens, cultivated all sorts of fruit and vegetables and flowers too. When I returned in September, there was a surprise addition, which is why I’m writing this blog post. Local school children from Pensans and St Madderns had made the most amazing scarecrows, all with a royal theme.

With assistance from a local artist, John Keys, the children produced ‘Kings and Queens’ inspired scarecrows to be displayed throughout the walled gardens. This part of Trengwainton is truly magnificent, worked on by a dedicated and friendly team who are happy to explain what they do in the gardens. I think some of the photos of the walled kitchen gardens speak for themselves:

So, on to the royal scarecrows. At the exit to Trengwainton there were a series of boxes where you could for your favourite. I started with a vote for Elizabeth II, then thought how wonderful Victoria was. But how could I miss out Aslan? Then what about the way Oberon and Titania were displayed amongst the pumpkins? And poor Charles II? Errrrr, yes I voted for them all. A coward’s way out and the votes cancelled each other out BUT well done to the school children who put the scarecrows together, I can’t wait to see the product of next year’s project!

Halloween Sewing Party and a Pumpkin Loaf Cake

Last Sunday I went over to see Judi from Handmade in Hunton for our annual Halloween sewing party. We used to work together and between 5 of us, we form a little collective of sewing enthusiasts. We all turned 30 and went crazy, bought sewing machines, started buying fabric, invested in some knitting needles and away we went! Our Halloween sewing party was full of cake and pumpkins. Judi put on her usual display of looooovely cakes, Halloween themed and absolutely delicious:


I made a pumpkin loaf with pumpkin buttercream based on this recipe. I was very worried that we would all unanimously dislike it but surprise surprise it was very much like carrot cake! I’m still not keen on the ikea of pumpkin pie but the loaf cake was a great idea and very Halloween-esque!

I have to give a mention to Stuart, who carved the main pumpkin and to Judi for finding the other ‘gourds’ – my new favourite word. Apparently the word ‘gourd’ describes a crop of squash types vegetables! Judi was not scrumping though, oh no no no, well sort of. She found the interesting looking squash type things whilst walking the dogs, they had been discarded by the harvester who took all the good ones and these poor runts of the litter were left. I am reliably informed that in relation to scrumping, the following rules apply:

You can ‘pick and pluck’ but you cannot ‘dig or cut’.

So, it looks like the Police won’t be knocking at Judi’s door any time soon for the gourds she found in the corner of a field. We decided that they didn’t look particularly edible and were much nicer to just look at for now. Plus, we’ve formed the Pumpkin Protection Society (PPS) such is our fascination with these little balls of squash!

Judi has been working on a crochet blanket and bought a huge batch of Rooster yarn from me earlier in the year. I was amazed to see how well she had progressed and how neat her squares were. She decided to edge them in white so she had a uniform colour scheme in connecting them. Otherwise it turns into the Krypton Factor trying to get a good colour balance. I can’t wait to see how the blanket turns out. The colours remind me of Nicki Trench’s Springtime Throw that featured in Country Homes & Interiors magazine last year.

Not content with the one project, Judi has been crocheting poppies for a project with Purl Queens Yarn Installations who are trying to get as many knitted or crocheted poppies together for an installation on the Road of Remembrance in Folkestone, Kent. This event will of course take place on 11th November 2012 and I look forward to seeing the product of all their hard work for Remembrance Day.

Tara Tuesdays – Part 27

Project Update

I wasn’t quite sure what to write about this week as I am still feeling exhausted after my day out at the K&S show last weekend! What Em (AKA Half Panama Peter – HPP) forgot to say is that we had a 12 hour day which included the coach journey too! As much as I love fabric and yarn shopping, Mags, Mary, Sue and I all agreed that this day out is definitely NOT for the faint hearted!

You may recall seeing my “Big Knit” Christmas stocking kit in progress last week when HPP gave me a much needed week off writing on her blog! Well, this project is supposed to take 2 hours to make up. I purchased the kit from the show as you know and had to go back to the stand to ask how to cast on as I just couldn’t do it with those massive needles! Once I knew what I was doing, I did make a start on the coach journey home. However I have to say that knitting 2 stitches together using those needles was REALLY difficult and I did go wrong! Normally, if I make a mistake on a row it is quite straight forward to go back, however with this yarn, it was nigh on impossible! Tongue out and in full concentration mode, I managed to correct the error, and I can’t deny it was a massive relief! PHEW!

Come Friday I only had a few more rows to knit and then the top of the stocking. As much as I love my 15 minute commute to work now I am in my new job, I really am missing the time on the train which is when I used to do my the bulk of my knitting! After several glasses of wine and a delish Thai Green curry made by hubby for our friend Dave (of Patchwork Blankie fame in a previous blog) I thought I would just knit a few more rows. Well, I don’t know what went wrong but I ended up having to go back SEVERAL rows to correct my errors! Note to self, “don’t knit on the biggest needles in the world when you have had lots of wine” because you are bound to make a mistake!

Eventually on Sunday morning I did finish the stocking and am delighted with the end result although will need to redo the loop that I hang it up with as it doesn’t seem strong enough. Next up I am going to attempt the rug as my friend Mary has the pattern, I have the needles, all I need now is the yarn!

What do you think of the finished result then?! Lots of goodies can go in here don’t you think?!

Tara Tuesdays – Part 26

Yes, Tara has been writing on the Emma’s Fabric Studio blog for 26 weeks and therefore she deserves a little blog holiday. Well, she is actually resting from her visit to the Knitting and Stitching Show with Mary and Mags on Sunday. I saw her and the girls last night and we agreed that I (Emma) would be the guest writer on Tara’s blog…. that she writes for me (Emma) every Tuesday. Confused?!

Tara, Mags Two Jags and Mary Queen of Cakes, all form part of our Fabric Fruitloops of Crowborough along with myself, Ginny (Ginster) and Sue (Super Marathon Runner). We all met through an evening class some years ago now and have remained friends since. Tara was very weary from her Alexandra Palace visit, so we decided that we would jointly photograph all their purchases and they’d all do a ‘show and tell’. Well, a show and tell is never a quick affair.

The main hit of the evening were two kits purchased by Mary Queen of Cakes and Tara, from Ingrid Wagner who produces patterns with her ‘Big Knit Yarn’. I think a photograph is in order, I can’t describe the size of the balls of yarn or the needles!

Yes, that’s Tara with her ‘super yarn’ and Mags with a perfectly normal ball and needles.  Tara’s circular needles were the size of a small child’s arms. She bought a kit to knit a stocking (I think she’s expecting some VERY big presents this year – note to her husband!) and Mary bought a kit to make a rug and had four large balls of super yarn. Tara was so excited she started knitting the stocking on the coach on the way home. They were all too polite to tell me who sat next to Tara on the way home from the show, thank goodness those needles were circular. Bet her elbows poked her neighbour in the ribs though. If you ever watch someone knit with giant balls of yarn, pay attention to the grossly exaggerated movements to actually be able to cast on and then proceed to knit!

The girls all bought some fabulous fabric, lots of yarn and bits of haberdashery. Not pictured is Mags’ dog poo bag holder, didn’t want to lower the tone, even if it was brand new and sparkling!

We then had a little show and tell session from me as Tara had ordered some fabrics:

And then there was Willow, who stole my muffins the first time I ever went to Mary’s house. Hmmmm, looking all innocent now!

So, just a short Tara Tuesday blog today, by Emma, with a show and tell from the Knitting and Stitching Show! Back to Tara next week…

Tara Tuesdays – Part 25

New Beginnings

After a 6 month rest from work (but not from life!) I have finally landed myself a new job which I started last week! I was a Civil Servant working in Central Government before and have done this for the best part of my career, and my new job is a complete change but one which, in only just a week, I feel is right for me!

I am now a Trainee Seamstress and am working for the clothing company Paramo. I only have a 15 minute drive to work which beats the 1 hour 50 minute commute (each way) to London that I was recently putting up with! However, it means that unfortunately, I can’t knit on the way to work any more which is a shame but something I am sure I can put up with!

I have been working on training garments this week, taking out and replacing zips and I will be repairing and eventually altering garments. Until you work with zips, I don’t think you realise the lengthy process of actually removing one and then trying to put it back in! I have always been a bit scared of them (a bit like Em) but feel that once I know exactly what I am doing, I will have confronted my fear! There is a 3 step process which I wasn’t aware of either, sew zip to lining, then to main fabric, then top stitch it all. Zip fans will be in zip heaven if they were in this job as they come in ALL sizes and colours! And I have just the best zip foot EVER! It is SO small but is perfect for sewing the zip into just the right place!

Another skill that my new job will teach me is to sew “oh so close” to the edge which is something I was never that good at before. I have been finding myself checking things I have made and giving them a disapproving “C+ could do better” look which I am hoping with practice I can master!

I must of course tell you about my new baby “Bridget”. One of my colleagues told me her name and I have been working on her this week. Although, initially, she was a bit intimidating as she is SO fast, I am slowly getting the hang of her! I have to say she sews the most beautiful straight stitch too!

I have also experienced “overlocker love” and used this for my first time when repairing a couple of tears! This was a bit scary if you put your foot down but I just used the foot pedal gently and it worked well! I just must remember that the foot pedals are NOT the clutch and accelerator pedals in my Land Rover!!!!

My team are a complete mixture of ages and experience which is great as I have already found out that one lady crochets, and that several other ladies are knitters so I can always go to them for help if I get stuck with my knitting! I am also hoping that I might be able to learn crochet again too which will be fab! They have all made me feel so welcome and I feel like I have been there for much longer than a week which is really nice!

I also thought it would be a good idea to strike while the iron is hot on a repair job I had on an old Levi jacket of mine. I have had it for ages and the sleeves are too long so I always used to turn them up. The top of the cuffs have now frayed but I have started to unpick them using my magic snips and will just move them up and hide the frayed bits! My jacket will look like new once I’ve finished with it, get me!

Next week I am off to the Knitting and Stitching Show with my girlfriends so will show and tell our purchases for you then, I can feel the excited fabric and yarn sweats coming on already!!!!

Cath Kidston – Make Your Dream Room In A Shoebox

My friends have been making a project revolving around Cath Kidston…. it was so good I asked for a blog post all about it. Here’s my friend Lorna with the details.  Just a word of warning, Lorna only ever makes things in miniature. Do you remember the scene in Bridget Jones when Bridget’s mum hosts a party with everything in miniature?  Mini apple pie, mini beef wellington, that kinda thing. Well that’s Lorna, everything in miniature!  Here she is:

I used to work with Emma before she took the plunge and became the international business-woman of fabric fabulousness. I currently work with a lovely team in Maidstone, Kent and we all share a love of vintage and crafting.

It all started when Becky told us about the Cath Kidston ‘Make your dream room in a shoebox’ competition, and asked us if we’d like to join her in creating a room. Now, this is something that I certainly have fond memories of doing as a little girl, using a shoe box, left over wallpaper and carpet to make a miniature version of my own bedroom. Although I must admit I did seem to have some problems with getting to grips with the smaller scale of some of my toys – I used to “help” my poor Fuzzy Felt people grow taller by stretching them, which meant they ended up like Mike TV in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory – taller yes, but rather odd looking!

For the competition, dear old Cath had suggested that the dream room be created out of household odds and ends, such as matchboxes, loo rolls and fabric scraps. We decided we wanted to create a shabby chic bedroom. We only had a week to get our room ready, so Becky as chief delegator assigned us our tasks.

Helen is an epic mountaineer and DIYer extraordinaire. In the full scale world Helen loves doing surprise room makeovers for her family and friends, so she was an ideal person to turn her hand to this miniature task!  Helen laid the wood effect floor and hung the wallpaper (some fabulously chintzy wrapping paper I had kept from my first wedding anniversary present from my husband Alex). I’m hoping I’m not the only person who hoards the odd bit of pretty wrapping paper and bits and bobs, determined that they will be re-used one day for a craft project!). Helen also created a window, complete with scenic view, white (ti-pex!) painted window frame and a lovely pair of lace curtains hung on a curtain pole (made from a wire coat hanger) with pearl finials. Helen also made a fantastic ottoman complete with a gold brocade padded seat, clothes spilling out from the lid and sweet little notice board pin feet!

Becky fashioned a “cast iron” bed frame from the wire coat hanger and made a very comfy looking floral mattress edged with lace. She also put in a turn as a high end fashion designer and made a beautiful dress complete with vintage belt which was actually a lovely sparkly button.

Becky and Jo (of sheep bonnet fame – see Emma’s blog post ‘Jo’s Easter Bonnett’ in April 2012) made a wonderful floor standing lamp out of a straightened out big paperclip, pearls from a broken necklace and a fantastic pleated lampshade made from a dinky cardboard espresso cup, finished off with some ribbon and pearl trim.

The chest of drawers was a real labour of love, made by our little twinkle-toes dancer Kiera. It was also an undertaking involving an element of danger, as she managed to glue her fingers together several times! Kiera used various sized matchboxes for the frame and drawers. She raided her dancing costume haberdashery supply and used pretty little beads for the drawer handles. Her attention to detail was wonderful, as she even lined each of the drawers with beautiful origami paper.

Now, Emma refers to me affectionately as “DilleyDally” – due to my married surname and my usual approach to crafty projects, which is basically to do a lot of pondering and stroking of fabric but not really getting very much actual making done! I must admit, it is an incredibly apt nickname. However, as we were working to a pretty tight deadline on this project I had to keep my levels of faff to a minimum. Emma also teases me as I hate to waste fabric and so I often make things on a small scale. Emma will give me her little off-cuts of fabric, joking that only I will be able to make something with them. So with this project I had finally found my ideal medium to use those little bits of fabric as everything needed to be in miniature!

I’ve accumulated lots of chintzy fabrics from when I (with the help of my husband, mum and friends) made bunting and other decorations for my vintage wedding. So, as designated ‘Head of Soft Furnishings’ for our bedroom, I made a patchwork bedspread and pillows for Becky’s bed. I cut out 1 inch squares of different fabrics and wonder-webbed them to a plain piece of fabric. My wonderful and long suffering mum, who has helped me with many of my crafty projects, then got to work on her sewing machine and sewed a blanket stitch around each of the little squares. She made lovely little and accurately detailed pillowcases which I then stuffed with wadding. I also made some tiny bunting and glued the flags to ivory ribbon, so that it looked like bias binding.

Becca, who hadn’t been feeling too well that week, rode in at the 11th hour on deadline day with a wonderful array of scatter cushions, which she had made with her mum and decorated with beads and edged with lace. She also made a little retro handbag, which due to some scaling issues, we all agreed would be a luggage bag. Credit must also go to Becca for the tiny little coat hanger that Becky’s dress hung on!

We also made a chandelier using decorations from Christmas crackers which we then hung with strings of tiny pearls and glass beads. We used a lace doily as a rug and stuck gold frames on the wall which were some of Helen’s Christmas tree decorations. The finishing touches were a printed picture of a vintage clock and Helen’s miniature tea set which she has had since she was a little girl.

We submitted our entry to Cath and are now eagerly waiting to hear the result.

We all have bedroom envy now and as someone from another team said, they wish they could become a tiny person so that it can be their bedroom!

We had such a brilliant time making the room and sharing our crafty skills with each other. It was lovely to see even not so crafty people getting involved and making truly fabulous things. We’re so proud of the finished room and it’s amazing and so satisfying to know that it was all made out of household items and bits and bobs that we had collected – this project is proof that everything comes in useful one day!

Click below to view the entire photo gallery…

Tara Tuesdays – Part 24

I shall go to the ball!

Very recently my husband received his belated Christmas gift which was a subscription to “The Chap” magazine which if you are not aware of it it is “A JOURNAL FOR THE MODERN GENTLEMAN” and is absolutely fantastic! Even I like it! Number 10 on the Manifesto is “THOU SHALT ALWAYS CULTIVATE INTERESTING FACIAL HAIR. By interesting we mean moustaches, not beards”. I think this might be why our friends got it for my old man as up until very recently and only because he needs to renew his passport, he had a fantastic ‘tache that he used to wax and curl regularly! The magazine has great articles and interviews inside and lots of top tips. You can also write in to “The Butler” which is a bit like “Dear Deirdre”. One of the questions in issue 57 was from a chap called Cuthbert Whistler who asked ” I am approaching you with a rather discreet gentlemanly matter. Is there anything one may do to prevent the unsightly damp crescents under the arms of ones shirts during the warmer weather? Someone has suggested shaving the armpit hair off altogether, though this seems a step to far to me. What are your opinions?”. This request in itself really made me chuckle!

The reason I am writing about the mag is that it has sneakily and very cunningly led me into the amazing world of Vintage and Retro clothing which I think deep down I have always loved but never really investigated or looked into. The adverts in the mag are for companies like “What Katy Did” which sells faux lingerie, shapewear, corsets & stockings inspired by silver screen sirens of the 1940’s & 1950’s. Then there is “Tara Starlet” (what a top name) which states” whether you are a Pin-Up Poser, a Swingin’ Rock ‘n’ Roller, or a Homefront Heroine, you will find the most authentic of attire at Tara Starlet. There is also “Vivien of Holloway”, “20th Century Foxy”,  “Heyday” and “Pin-Up Parade” to name but a few. For those of you that know me really well I am neither an aspiring Pin-Up or a Homefront Herione, however as I have a big birthday next month and am going to Claridges for dinner with my husband and dear friends Andy and Claire, I thought it might be nice to get myself glammed up with a new frock for the occasion. And this is where my slight obsession began!

I have had a great time looking at all of the websites above and others that came up in random Google searches and found myself a great dress at Pin-Up Parade. I contacted the lovely Helen who runs the website and asked for her advice and she promptly came back to me asking me to take my measurements so that she could advise on the best style dress for me. All I can say is the tape measure never lies, however Helen didn’t bat an eyelid when I went back to her with my measurements! I wouldn’t have been able to see her even if she did! Anyway, back to my story. After advice from Helen, I eventually decided on the Secretary Circle dress pictured here which I hope you will agree is GORGEOUS!

I was beside myself with excitement when it arrived a few weeks ago and couldn’t wait to try it on! I have to say, it fits me perfectly and looks great! It felt really comfortable and is one of those dresses that you know is right as soon as you put it on! Of course the next thing to look for was shoes. Now, I am not good in heels and as my Mum will tell you always have trouble with shoes that I have to take back, it is a standing joke between us both! Again I asked Helen for advice and she recommended I try Miss L Fire and Rocket Originals websites. After much deliberation I fell in love with these gorgeous lovelies and have since ordered them! They haven’t arrived yet but I am hoping they will look great and fit me and more importantly that I can walk in them!!!!!

Of course it didn’t stop there! I found a great website called Retro Chick where Gemma blogs about all sorts of things and one that was of particular interest to me was about red lipsticks! I do of course wear make up but haven’t done so much of late, but thought it would be fun to try out the whole 50’s look with tick eyeliner and red lippy! I have had a couple of practice runs and after a somewhat surprised look on my first attempt, I felt more comfortable on my second attempt! It was also a really good excuse to rummage through my stash and throw away all of my old makeup! After reading Gemma’s lippy reviews I went to Boots and tried a No7 lipstick as she had recommended this brand and also the Tunbridge Wells store had it’s 3 for 2 promotion plus a £3 off voucher, result! The lady that served me was really helpful and was either being kind or lying as she said my makeup looked perfect (not bad for only my second attempt) and that my skin was snowy white! I ended up coming away with a lippy in “Glam” which she had applied, a lipliner and a nail varnish, pic attached with my Bobbi Brown eye liner which I have been using for the ticks!

During my search I came across Jo-Jo and Betty and fell in love with this bracelet that I thought would match my frock perfectly even though it is a lighter shade of green.

When I contacted Jo I asked her if she had any matching items available and I managed to get a lovely pair of stud earrings and a fab hair clip! All of these goodies arrived at the weekend and they are just perfect!

The last thing I need to get is some nylons, but at £10 a pair they aren’t cheap!

I am so looking forward to getting all dressed up for my big night out and will share some pictures with you so that you can see me all glammed up!