The Pink Button Tree

The Pink Button Tree: November 2013

Friday, 29 November 2013

Roman blinds :: The project has started at last!

As winter is just around the corner I've been gradually adding a few new things to our home to make it even more cosy! I've been making a few cushions, have started a crochet blanket and last week our new scandi style striped rug arrived. This meant that I could finally make a start with the Roman blind project I have been planning for some time. I needed to wait until the rug arrived before I could make the final selection of the fabric and match the colours for the Roman blinds I am making for the same room. It has started to feel quite a bit colder in the evenings with a few nights recently edging closer to zero, so this gave me the push I needed to start.

Last weekend I finally made a start with the Roman blind for the back door. The fabric I'm using is a wide ticking navy fabric from John Lewis. I headed off to John Lewis on Saturday morning with my measurements and bought enough material for the two Roman blinds that I'm making, plus the lining and interlining. The sash window and door are really draughty so I need to make quite thick blinds.

I am making my own handmade Roman blinds for our home using a kit but the instructions have been a little limited! I've had to buy a few extra things, such as Roman Blind Tape and cord as the amount in the kit wasn't enough. Our door has a window above it making it taller than any of the Roman blind kits I could find. The poor instructions included the kit have meant to I have spent some time reading lots of websites with how-to's, looking in books and watching videos on YouTube to pull together an idea of how to make Roman blinds.

While I'm making the blinds I'm writing a how-to that I will share with you so that you can make blinds too. There are lots of ways to make and finish Roman blinds but I cannot find a tutorial out there that combines the finish that I want so things are taking a little longer than planned because I'm writing the steps myself and finding out what works and doesn't work as I move through the process.

I'm hoping to finish this project for our home before the end of the year so I'll keep you updated.

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Thursday, 28 November 2013

Making a Christmas Cake

This year I have decided to start a few new December traditions. I will tell you more about these in December but I wanted to share with you my first new tradition a little early so that you may join in on the fun too!

For very many years I have wanted to make my own Christmas Cake. Mr C doesn't like fruit cake so I have been reluctant to put the effort in. However this year I really wanted to try making one as a new tradition. I wanted something I could enjoy over a cup of tea and when my friends come to visit. I know I should have made this about a month ago, but things have been busy and suddenly the end of November has crept up on me!

After a lot of research of Christmas cake recipes I decided to use Delia Smith's Classic Christmas Cake recipe which you can find on Delia Online. This is the same recipe as the Traditional Christmas Cake recipe in Delia's Book of Cakes (1988). I have grown up with Delia and have always had good results with her recipes. I thought I should use this for my first Christmas cake and then maybe try a different recipe next year.

This week I started the first stage of making the Christmas cake, the overnight soaking of the ingredients in brandy. I've added the currants, sultanas, raisins, glacé cherries and mixed candied peel to my big Mason Pearson mixing bowl and poured over the brandy. I gave it a little stir and covered it. I'm going to give it a little stir each day to ensure the brandy is evenly absorbed. I'm planning to make the Christmas Cake this weekend so the ingredients have a few days to really absorb the alcohol.

I'm hoping that with a few weeks left before Christmas I can keep the cake moist by adding extra liquid and have a little time to plan how I'm going to ice it!

If you fancy starting a new tradition this Christmas a home made Christmas cake could be a great project to try.

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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

I love magazines

Do you have anything that you really love doing? I love reading magazines. I work at a media company that creates a few of these fantastic magazines in the photo and I’m super proud of what these talented teams deliver every month. I don’t write for any of the magazines myself but admire from afar! The content is so inspirational and the photography so beautiful.

As I mentioned in this post about The Simple Things last year, one of my favourite things is receiving post. For me that normally means magazines, a few exciting parcels for our home and fabric deliveries! During this busy and hectic month of November I've loved coming home after a long day, sitting down with a mug of tea in my snuggler seat with a blanket and a magazine. I find that taking time out and having a chance to escape from everything going on is the perfect way to relax and keep up to date with everything going on across the various interests I have. I love reading blogs and things online but there is nothing better than holding the paper of a magazine in my hands, then making a pile of those that I've read.

This stack above are keeping me busy at the moment. The great thing about some of these magazines is that they come with some lovely gifts. Over the past month or so Mollie Makes and Ideal Home had calenders as their cover gifts. I currently have both calendars from these magazines for 2013 on my walls in our kitchen and my craft room and love them. I've had a sneaky flick through the 2014 calenders and I'm looking forward to popping them on my walls in the new year.

You may have spotted an issue 1 and 2 of Love Patchwork and Quilting on the pile, this is a brand new magazine that I'm loving. I'm going to share my thoughts on the magazine with you in the next few weeks.

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Monday, 18 November 2013

A long weekend :: Time to get crafty

A few weeks ago I decided to book myself a long weekend. I had planned to take a few days off work to dedicate to my hobbies and to start making the Roman blinds that we so desperately need in our lounge to keep us a little warmer this year. A combination of still trying to understand the instructions in the Roman blind kit I've bought (I'm starting to write my own!), and the fabric not being chosen in time, has meant that this part of my long weekend had to be moved to a few weeks time. I managed to get lots achieved instead!

Having two days off work before the weekend meant I could catch up on writing a few blog posts and taking photos. I spent my time enjoying cups of tea, eating toast and jam, waiting for Christmas decoration deliveries to arrive. I filled our home with music I haven't listened to in a while and alternated between Radio 2 and 6Music. I enjoyed relaxed lunchtimes having home made soup for lunch and then pottering round nearby Clifton Village and visiting my favourite shop, Pod, minus the weekend crowds. I had the time to use our local post office, and visit our local charity shop to drop off a few bags of things following a clear out. I indulged each afternoon drinking tea from my special Emma Bridgewater mugs and eating triple chocolate cookies from my pretty plates. All of that interspersed with time to craft. It was absolute heaven!

I had chance to start making the cushion cover I have been planning to make for sometime. I enjoyed having the time to think about the structure of the cushion and loved playing with some of my newest fabric.

On Saturday we went out for brunch with friends and walked home along the floating harbour near our home, enjoying the crisp fresh air. I had time to appreciate and enjoy where we live without rushing around.

I spent some of the weekend sorting out my Project Life album and printing out photos to get myself up to date. I love Project Life and I'll tell you more about it on another blog post soon.

On Sunday I continued crocheting granny squares whilst nursing a bad cold and cough.

I had fun gathering supplies from my paper and scrapbooking stash for Christmas card making. I've started pulling together the supplies I'm planning to use for Journal Your Christmas and December Daily this year. I'm getting really excited about a craft filled December and taking the time to capture all the details in my photos.

I've really loved having the opportunity to take a few days out of my normal routine and do things I love. I like to get up early, keep busy and make the most of the free time I have. I think it has recharged me, perhaps I relaxed a little too much! I have ended up with another cough and cold in the space of a month. I don't know how I've managed to get unwell twice in such close succession, both times have been when I've really relaxed! Oh well, the perfect excuse to snuggle on the sofa and crochet.

I'm definitely going to make time for a long weekend of hobbies again in the future. I've got some time off before Christmas to really get into the spirit of things. What do you love doing when you have a bit of down time?

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Sunday, 17 November 2013

Crochet Confidence

Crochet has been something I have wanted to try again for a while. I swoon over photos of crochet projects on some of my favourite craft blogs and magazines wishing I could make them. I love the images of yarn and seemingly complicated looking, but gorgeous crochet projects. In January 2012 I wrote a post about making a start with crochet . Afterwards I felt that maybe I had had a fluky few days of doing it. Whilst looking through books trying to decide what to make, I picked up my crochet hook a week or so later and couldn't crochet. I was getting muddled with simple patterns I read, I couldn't get the hold and tension correct and so I decided to move onto other things. Perhaps I was lacking confidence with myself and lacked patience at the time. After that I had told myself one day I'll try again. This month I did and I'm pleased to say I am now well on my way with the basics of crochet.

With the evenings after work being darker and colder I wanted to do something I could snuggle on the sofa with and pick up in small chunks.  I'm loving knitting the cosy cable cushion again but the concentration needed to work through the pattern isn't conducive to multitasking watching Downtown Abbey, Strictly Come Dancing or The Mentalist!

I didn't want yarn, patterns and tension to defeat me. I knew that if I could knit using the basic skills this really should be achievable! One Sunday afternoon I found myself with a few spare hours, with all the major household jobs done round the house and the ironing completed I decided to try and crochet again. I knew I had to be patient, not rush it and take time to read and refresh myself on everything. So I gathered my little collection of crochet books, found the crochet tutorials on blogs and YouTube that I had bookmarked, and sat with a pot of tea to see if I could get my head round crochet again. 

I went back to basics and dug out a ball of wool from my tiny collection. I found some turquoise yarn and started practising the crochet hold. I then started a chain, doing it and then unravelling it and starting it again many times until I was happy with my hold and tension of the chain. I made mistakes, the stitches were too loose and too tight but eventually I managed to get a similar tension and began to feel coordinated again. I opened all my crochet books and looked at the technique sections but found myself gravitating towards a lovely little book called Crochet Unravelled I bought a few years ago. You can find out how to get Crochet Unravelled on the publishers website and most wool shops I've seen stock the little book too. Mine only cost me about £8 so see if you can find it as it really is worth it.

The book looks pretty odd and not your typical crochet book. I mainly go for the books that have lovely photography of the projects inside. But as the saying goes don't judge a book by its cover. What I love about this book is its simplicity in style, it has illustrations and a few black and white photos, but what it lacks in pretty layout is an absolute goldmine of learning how to crochet. The simplicity and fantastic step by step explanations is just like having someone next to you teaching you. For both right and left handers this book works you through the stages and stitches taking you through to simple projects so you can gain confidence. Each stage is carefully explained using plain language and tips. It progresses to reading patterns with crochet abbreviations, and also those patterns that have diagrams. I'm not really there quite yet but I am starting to piece together the concepts.

I've started where most people do, the good old classic granny square. My aim is to make a granny square blanket. After following the step by step instructions in this book and cross referencing with a few images of granny squares, I managed to create a square. I unravelled it and did it again. After a few more goes I felt that I was ready to get myself some yarn I wanted to use so I could start my own crochet blanket. 

During a lunch hour from work I headed to a lovely shop called Wool in Bath to look for yarn. I didn't want anything too expensive that would put me off completing the project, I've bought yarn for knitting that I love but at £5 a ball you have to be really committed financially to a project with yarn that expensive! When I was in Wool I asked for some advice about the yarn I should be looking for to use when crocheting and was told double-knit wool (dk on the label) is what I should ideally look at. The yarn I selected was Rico Baby Classic dk at £2.75 a ball. The yarn is soft and is a 50% acrylic and 50% polymide mix. You can use a 3.5 or 4 crochet hook with this, luckily these are the two hooks I already own. I came home with a selection of colours that would work in our home, specifically to work well with our teal coloured sofas.

As soon as I got home I made a start on crocheting a granny square in the light blue yarn so I could see what I was doing and get used to the yarn in my hands. My plan was to create a classic multi-coloured granny square blanket. I wasnt too sure how to add another colour so I did a bit of research, this video on how to crochet a granny square with colour changes really helped me see what to do.

Here's my first attempt of a multi coloured granny square with three rounds.

and another...this one looked a lot neater!

I then did another square...I decided to add an extra round of stitches to a square so I would have a granny square with four rounds and colour changes.

I've decided to keep my granny squares to four rounds and four colours (at the moment!). I like the size and they are achievable to make in about 40 minutes each. I'm using the white yarn and three blue yarns as the combination of colours seems to sit well with together. I will save the lovely minty green/light aqua colour I bought for a pastel coloured crochet project for our bedroom instead!

I am really enjoying getting stuck into making the granny squares and am trying out different colour combinations and orders. I imagine I wont have a blanket ready for quite sometime but I can watch the project grow and get excited about what it may look like in the end.

I'm looking forward to watching the blanket grow square by squaure. Owning a blanket I've made will be so satisfying and will be something I can treasure forever. I'm excited rather than daunted over this project, perhaps projects with many small stages fit best with me, piece by piece the they come together over time. This weekend I've put all my crochet books back on my book shelf, complicated squares and patterns can wait while I get to grips with the basics. I'm planning to take this hobby one small step at a time. 

If you want to get started with crochet there are so many resources out there in print and online. I would recommend getting the Crochet Unravelled book for the basics, looking at video tutorials, and buying yarn in colours you love, it makes learning so much easier and you'll feel motivated to keep working on the project. 

The blog that always brightens my day when crochet and crafts is concerned is Attic24, have a look and swoon at Lucy's fabulous designs and amazing use of rainbow colours. I love her little attic studio room with a lovely view too. There is a great crochet tutorial by Little Tin Bird about how to crochet a basic granny square. I spent time looking at the photos on this blog post and it gave me great confidence to start as I knew what to expect at each stage.

I'm not going to be ashamed to ask for advice moving forward with crochet, most people I've met are either finding their way through it or are very happy to help and share their passion. I hope I may have inspired you to have a go at crocheting a granny square and have given you the confidence to start your own basic granny square blanket. Let me know how you get along! I'll keep you posted with my progress.


Friday, 15 November 2013

Patchwork cushion cover :: Work in Progress

After weeks of thinking and planning I've finally made a start on making the patchwork cushion cover. I had lots of ideas but have decided to go for a design with rows of different sized rectangles of fabric. I wanted it to look a little like bricks but not as structured. The cushion is being made to compliment our teal coloured sofa and add some gorgeous scandi style fabric to our lounge. It has taken a while to get to this stage as I needed time to think and focus on the project but I'm so pleased I've made a start.

Here are a few photos of my progress so far. 

I have cut all the pieces down to sizes I am happy with and have arranged the patterned fabric.

I've sewn the fabric pieces together, and now have the rows ready to sew together.

I love these fabrics and the colour combination. I'm not yet sure if I'm going to make piping, a zip or button fastening or how the back of the cushion will look yet but watch this space.

What patchwork or sewing projects are you working on at the moment?

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Thursday, 14 November 2013

A busy month :: Autumn is here

Autumn has well and truly arrived. My scarf collection is making an appearance on a daily basis, my boots are out, my winter coat on, and I get to wear my favourite hats for the next few months.

 My morning walk to the train station is getting prettier by the minute, the trees are slowly changing colour and crisp golden leaves are filling the pavements. I love how the way my walk to work changes throughout the year. However on the flip side, the walk home is dark and I’m missing the daylight and the view of the sun setting on the way home. With the dark nights comes the excuse to hunker down, snuggle in blankets and not feel guilty about getting crafty. 

I haven’t been posting on my blog for a while as I’ve spent the past month planning projects I’m hoping to achieve by the end of the year. I always set myself so much to do, with a full time job and a hour commute to work, and then an hour back again, the days are so much shorter than I would like! The dark evenings mean the light isn’t great, so I don't get to see how things look in the daylight and I am unable to document my progress in photos. 

During last month I was off sick for a week and in bed and whilst I was waiting to get better I had time to think, relax, look through my favourite interiors books to get inspiration and watch some of my favourite movies. 

After being unwell I wanted to kick start things and make the most of my free time, I think you realise how little you achieve when you are feeling under the weather and how much you want to do when you stop and think. I decided to pick up my knitting needles and continue knitting the cosy cable cushion cover I started last year. I put the project down at the beginning of the year but I'm loving the feeling of yarn in my hands and watching my knitting grow. It's a perfect project for after work as I snuggle on the sofa and feel that I'm achieving something line by line of the pattern. It has also got me thinking about attempting to crochet again, (I'll write more about that in a few days time!).

With the dark evenings I have also started to notice small things that would make a difference to the comfort of our home. One of the projects is to make Roman blinds and curtains for our flat. I have two windows I want to make curtains for, and a back door and window that I plan to make Roman blinds for as all the windows are longer or an odd size. I want to create a more insulated and cosy home to ensure we stay warmer this winter. I've been looking at fabric samples, deciding on the style of the curtains, selecting curtain poles and getting my head round how to make Roman blinds and curtains. I had a perfect excuse to go to John Lewis and swoon over the fabric section, even Mr C didn’t seem to mind! I'm still deciding on the fabric but over the next week or so I hope to be able to choose and to make a start on measuring and cutting the fabric. I'm still waiting for a few fabric samples to arrive.

I've also been planning to make new cushions for a while to make our sofa more cosy. I've made one cushion cover already but I want to make one more that is unique and something new I haven't done before. Over the past month I have started to plan the design for the new patchwork cushion cover and I've made a start on making it, so I'll update you shortly.

I have also spent time thinking about Christmas in our home. I have decided to treat Mr C and I to a few new Christmas decorations this year. I have a real passion for all things scandi style. All my decorations are made out of wood and are painted white and red, I’ve collected these over the years and I love them.  For over 5 years I have had a wish list of Christmas decorations I’d love to have. A few weeks ago I took the plunge to make the investment and buy them. I have wanted them after all these years so I know the investment will be worth it. 

I am planning to make a few things on the run up to Christmas, including Christmas appliqué bunting, festive cushion covers and Christmas cards. I’d love to create a Christmas quilt for Mr C and I to snuggle up under but I just don’t think I'll have the time. I'm hoping to also do December Daily/Journal Your Christmas to document the run up to Christmas too. I’ll start posting my Christmas related posts during December so keep an eye out then and you'll get a little insight into Christmas in our home. 

What projects are you working on at the moment? Have the dark cold evenings made you pick up some hobbies again? I'll update you on the things I'm making, doing and what is inspiring me over the next few weeks, in the meantime keep warm!

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