Spring flowers…

April 13, 2012

I’ve just spent a few days in the West Country skipping around like a sprightly spring lamb. The fresh air was wondrous and I was amazed by the amount of daffodils bloomin’ everywhere. In my attempt to bring a little bit of the country back to the city, I picked daffodils from my Mother’s garden and gathered whatever greenery I could scrounge from the local hedgerows, along the Devon lanes. I decided to display them in the many jam jars I have collected over the years, I normally use these as tea light holders but with a bit of ribbon they looked suitably pretty for my little floral arrangements that are now dotted ALL over my house…

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Spring flowers, daffodils, countryside, Devon, Spring, flower display, country flowers, ideal home, homeshoppingspy, alice humphrys

Spring flowers, daffodils, countryside, Devon, Spring, flower display, country flowers, ideal home, homeshoppingspy, alice humphrys

If you’re looking for a similar weekend project then this is all you need:

1. A selection of glass jars or any other interesting glass receptacles! If you don’t have many kicking about at home try The Jam Jar Shop for all sorts of shapes and sizes or raid your local car boot/charity shop for old glass bottles.

2. Scraps of ribbon, baker’s twine, brown string..whatever you fancy (I used a selection of ribbons in yellows/creams to keep to a co-ordinated colour scheme.

3. A selection of cut spring flowers from your garden, florist or supermarket and greenery.

For more country decorating ideas why not visit the Ideal Home website. Happy weekend. The sun is set to shine! – Alice

It’s not everyday you can walk into a shop and come out with a vintage jelly mould reinvented as a pendant lamp, a Mexican bingo set, moose shaped firelighters and a deckchair. But if you’re lucky enough to live near the market town, Corbridge in Northumberland, you can! (For those that don’t, you can of course buy online, phew!), Simon Young and Jenny Vaughan’s converted workshop (round the back of an old filling station) is a treasure trove of totally unique finds for the home. They named their shop RE after two giant metal red letters they bought in a Parisian flea market…

People, step inside and feast your eyes on these wonderful buys..

I would very much like these jolly, jelly mould pendant lamps. How lovely to hang a row of these above a kitchen table…

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Planning fodder for your Jubilee street party yet? Make sure you get yourself a set of these British Isles cookie cutters..

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Keep your teapot cosy with this cute pom-pom number, hand knitted in Northumberland..

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This red, white and blue twine will come in handy for any Jubilee/Olympic crafty projects…

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Elsewhere there are gorgeous linen cushions, inspired by American flour sacks…

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original 50’s and 60’s mixing bowls in pretty on-trend pastel shades..

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and this ‘waste not want not’ fabric is sold off the roll, for £16 a metre. It’s 44cm wide perfect for a table runner. GREAT idea..

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Thank goodness it’s March! Spring had sprung and I’ve just bought 4 bunches of daffodils for £1 in my lunch break – hurrah! They’re currently bunged in a vase and just about surviving in our air conditioned office but what I’d really like to display them in is this…

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A test tube for each single stem. Ah Joy! Thank you RE. Delightful finds and next time I’m even vaguely heading oop north I’m going to take a detour and pop by. – Alice


On the 1st day of Christmas…

November 26, 2011

Ok, it’s almost countdown to Christmas time! Alas, I always feel a little disheartened when I see the shops stocked with tacky, commercial Advent calendars with synthetic pressed chocolates, that taste like plastic. Who buys those?

So, i’ve scoured around to seek out a few creative alternatives that I like and wanted to share with you. And they’re calorie free. Justification #327 for eating lots on Christmas day.

First up: The eco-friendly stationary people, Lollipop Designs. Create your own poster with this graphic Advent calendar and sticker sheet, a different sticker for each day. Why not?

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And I love this idea from The Spotted Sparrow at notonthehighstreet.com. 24 pre-dated blank library cards that you can customise with a suggested festive activity for each day (eat a mince pie, adopt a reindeer, practice Auld Lang Syne, take your hands OUT of the Quality Street tin…). They sit in cute brown paper pockets and come with bakers twine and wooden pegs to hang garland-stylee over a mantlepiece or banister. Ooh er!

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Next up: The lovely Bodie and Fou. Ok, so this idea is slightly more aimed at kids but I wouldn’t say no to a cube a day filled with ‘toys’ and other small but useful things! It’s a bit more pricey at £35.50 but it can be re-used year after year. (please note: toys not included. The idea is you get creative and fill it yourself).

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And lastly, but by no means least is a charming DIY Advent calendar from the creative genius that is Lucy Jane Batchelor. It comes with 25 dated illustrated stickers to create your own wintry scene. Such lovely retro colours. Jolly delightful! – Alice

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Lucy Jane Batchelor, Advent calendar scene, Christmas, advent calendar, craft, devon, ideal home, homeshoppingspy

Eee by gum, our first ‘Book of the Week’ for 2011 is a real stunner. Packed full of beautiful photographs and printed on expensive-looking thick paper, it’s written by two Norwegian stylists: Ellen Dyrop and Hanna Kristinsdottir, and out on February 7th. Rediscovered Treasures: A New Life for Old Objects is an absolute treat from beginning to end. And it goes a little something like this…

This beautiful book shows you how to transform old curios into shabby-chic homewares for every room of the house…so start collecting cutlery, biscuit tins and the like, and stock up on super-glue:

I like the idea of using stencils to update old tableware – ‘CARPE DIEM’ in an Emma-Bridgewater-esque font scrawled across a vintage metal teapot filled with fresh flowers– what could be more pleasing?

It’s got a step-by-step ‘how to’ section at the back, with stencils to trace and a useful list of shops you might need, too. It’s out on February 7th, but you can pre-order it on Amazon now for under a tenner. – Ellie

Make a cameo

November 17, 2010

Our clever intern Laura has been crafting for the Ideal Home website this week and made this beautiful Victorian-style cameo from a digital photo:

Want to make one yourself? Follow Laura’s step-by-step guide here. You could make one for every member of your family and arrange them in a group for a really striking display. Thanks, Laura! – Ellie

Oooh la la! The new June issue of Ideal Home is in the shops now, and it’s a cracker! Bunting fans will be especially chuffed to discover we’re giving away some gorgeous printed bunting with this issue, covered with pretty vintage-style floral patterns fresh from the pages of the lovely Reprodepot Pattern book: Flora.

It’s so easy to make – all you need is a ribbon and some staples or glue – and it looks great draped around the garden for a summer party. Stick it to your shed, tie it to trees and bushes, wrap it around your garden furniture – instant summer chic! Also, if you’re keen to get hold of the Reprodepot Pattern book: Flora and the joyous accompanying CD of high-resolution printable patterns for craft, we’re running a special offer in our June issue, which means you can get your sticky little mitts on the book for just £9.99 as opposed to £16.99 – you can’t say fairer than that. – Ellie



The WAR-TIME trend

January 29, 2010

I spy with my little eye, something beginning with T.  Just when we thought the coast was clear, there’s one more, sneaky, cheeky trend to look at. Let’s check out at the current vogue for all things WAR-related.

Now, this trend is HUGE. And it isn’t miserable, despite the harsh realites of war – rather, it’s quite a cheerful look, channelling the (real or imagined) optimistic war-time spirit of 1940s Britain. As we witnessed with the recent rash-like spread of the now-unavoidable-yet-strangely-still-appealing-particularly-if-it’s-not-in-red KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON poster, the time is apparently ripe for battening down the hatches, putting on a brave face, joining together and reviving the traditional British ‘stiff upper lip’ in the face of adversity. We’re all trying to save money, waste less and stay cheerful. A bit like we were in the war. And so, a trend is born.

Let’s start with flags. Unless you’ve been living under a stone somewhere, you can’t have failed to notice a lot of Union Jacks all over the place – bunting, posters, cushions, teacups – it’s something we were chatting about last spring. The likes of Becky Oldfield (with her flag quilts and vintage medals) are cashing in, and last year the high street was awash with flag-tastic accessories. There’s no getting away from them – for 2010, designers have swapped the usual red, white and blue for floral flags with a crafty look. Check out the new Tesco tins above, and the Portmeirion place mats.

It’s not just patriotic flags we’re luvvin’. Reassuring wartime poster slogans and plucky Government mottoes have become the norm for prints and have been reproduced in their millions.

There’s KEEP CALM of course, but many more including AN APPLE A DAY, DIG FOR VICTORY and, perhaps the most British of all: TEA REVIVES YOU. If there’s a war on, or a recession for that matter, have a nice cup of tea and everything will seem a lot better, ducky.

Our cooking habits are being influenced by the war years, too. Wartime recipe books are being re-printed and are soaring in popularity as people look to save money by using up leftovers and spending less at the supermarket. I read in The Times recently: “Moves to recover the lessons of the war can be seen on the forums of MoneySavingExpert.com, where various contributors have begun to offer tips salvaged from wartime cookbooks, or on Amazon, where the works of that great wartime cook Marguerite Patten are displayed beside books by Gordon Ramsay.” Even Waitrose now stocks cheaper cuts of meat such as pig trotters and sheep brains.

From top left, working clockwise: A cute purse from Rosie’s Armoire with a weekly family food budget printed on it; a vintage ration book; Cold Meat And How To Disguise Ita fantastic collection of war-time tips, recipes and ephemera; and Economical Cookery, and a war-time recipe book I inherited. Bovril eggs, anyone? Our attitude to shopping has changed, too. Check out the interior of this fabulous new shop our editor Isobel found in Brighton. It’s called Utility, and I’m definitely going to pop in next time I’m down that way:

Utility takes it’s ‘name and inspiration’ from the World War II scheme that produced everyday goods with a minimum of wastage, and the website helpfully explains to us, (the ignorant yoof!) that this is ‘because raw materials were in short supply then’. Utility sells ‘simple, but always functional and hardwearing’ home accessories, which ‘stick to principles’ and the founders claim to be ‘waging a war’ on ‘tut’. Shops such as this are evidence of a huge shift towards a simpler, more meaningful way of life that many of us crave after the plastic fantastic eighties and fat-cat-buy-buy-buy nineties; we’re more aware of the environment and we also want to save money, so when we shop, we want to buy simple, ethical things that will last.

(Of course, buying anyTHING when you don’t absolutely NEED to, whether it’s simple, eco and functional or not, kind of demeans this whole philosophy – Utility is, after all, still a shop, selling lovely accessories that are not exactly essentials – but let’s not nit pick or we’ll be here forever. And this is a shopping blog, so who am I to talk!!)

Even our reading matter is war-related at the moment. I love all the reproduction Government-issued pamphlets from the war years that are being re-released, so I picked these up in the Tate Britain shop, but you can also buy them on Amazon. In the 1940s, handbooks were given to soldiers going abroad advising them on the peculiarities of the ‘foreigners’ they would soon encounter. The guides were intended to lessen the culture shock for those embarking on their first trip and the instructions are a wonderful interpretation of the differences between the allies.

Here’s a priceless extract from the Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain book: “The British don’t know how to make a good cup of coffee. You don’t know how to make a good cup of tea. It’s an even swap…”

For me, it’s the war-time craft revival that’s my favourite thang…mmmmm, check out my vintage LEARN TO TAT poster! (You’ll find the MAKE DO AND MEND print at the Keep Calm Gallery.) I like nothing better than to sit about wearing bright red lipstick and a 1940s-style tea dress from TopShop, sipping tea from a vintage teacup, knitting socks for the sheer pleasure of it rather than the necessity. How absurd. It’s 2010. I could buy them in Primark for heaven’s sake, five pairs for a pound. But I and many others choose to buy wool instead and hang out at ‘Make Do And Mend’ pop-up crafting nights from the likes of iKnit and Smack My Stitch Up – ‘Customisation for the Nation’, in case you’re wondering. Ten years ago, if somebody had suggested mixing cross-stitch with DJ-ing, they’d have been locked in a secure unit. Now, such combos are the norm and, thanks to the massive revival of all things homemade and handmade, ‘making do’ and ‘mending’ has never been cooler.

(I couldn’t resist this VICTORY “Wonder-Sock” pattern when I spotted it in a car boot sale – it’s ‘the perfect gift’, and the pink reproduction Ministry of Information Make do and Mend book is available from Amazon.) Take the Shoreditch Sisters Women’s Institute group for example – ten years ago, it was not cool to be in the W.I, but now, knitting is not just for grannies. The members are sassy, sexy young women, all crafting, jam-making, and hanging out being cool in a very Shoreditch way. Check out their president and founder, ‘Jazz Domino Holly‘ (yes, this is her real name. Daughter of The Clash lead singer…always the way with rock stars), seen here in her presidential photo, standing in front of a massive KEEP CALM poster. As if I PLANNED it. And her fellow Shoreditch ‘Sister’ is shown here running a ‘Clothing Customisation Station’ at a recent Bust Craftacular event, proudly holding up the wartime slogan: MAKE DO AND MEND.

These trendy young crafters are living proof that wartime attitudes have been embraced by the hipsters (HIPSTERS?! Groan, I must be getting old) of 2010. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love a bit of V-DAY-style buntin’, a good vintage propoganda poster or a retro OXO tin as much as the next design-addict, but I do wonder what my dear grandmother would say about all this if she were alive today.  She belonged to a generation who HAD to darn socks, fly flags, use up leftovers, scrimp, save, keep calm and, erm, carry on, out of necessity. I suspect she’d think it was strange that we seem to think that a dip in the economy is in some way comparable to the desperately hard times endured by so many in the 1940s. But I’m sure she’d find it funny that I’m wearing floral tea dresses just like she used to! – Ellie