in honour of lisa stickley’s new book, made at home, (which is gorgeous and due to be published by quadrille on the 2nd of july), this post is written in lower case letters with no upper case letters at all.

the reason for this is that lisa’s book does not have any capital letters in it. i find that typing is actually a lot quicker and easier this way. perhaps that’s why she does it? or maybe her caps lock key is bust. the mind boggles. either way, her new book is absolutely delightful, as you might expect. it starts with a ‘basic techniques’ section, then covers four key areas of the home: kitchen, living room, bedroom and laundry, with step-by-step sewing projects for each.

i love the way this book is written – lisa’s quirky style shines through on every page: “for an extra posh napkin it is nice to add a buttonhole to one corner. i first saw this done on a british airways napkin from the 1960s; it is a great idea, especially when wearing a white shirt and eating spaghetti.” indeed.

the book is filled with lovely photography that inspires you to get stitching…like this cute cushion shot…

you can get your mitts on a copy of this book for £16.99 in july. – ellie


Now, I was a tad disappointed by Kirstie’s Homemade Home back in the summer, but let’s put all that behind us and give the re-invented Ms Allsopp another chance. Let’s also ignore the fact that Channel 4 decided to broadcast her trio of festive programmes a little bit late in the day (as The Guardian put it: “who’s got time to blow their own glass baubles in the next fortnight?” indeed…), and focus on the content instead.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised – kind of. I did think the bauble-blowing episode in programme one was a bit pointless and very expensive at £20 a bauble, considering this was supposed to be a homemade Christmas that DIDN’T involve spending loads of money. Also, I’m not sure how relevant her trip to Liberty was to be honest…similar to the visit she paid to her parents’ palatial but ghastly home in the first series, this was obviously intended to show Kirstie ‘finding inspiration’ but I couldn’t really put my finger on WHAT she gained specifically…apart from deciding the glaringly obvious: that she wanted her home to look Christmassy and lovely. These niggles aside, there were some good ideas in the first programme; salt dough decorations ARE cheap and fun to make with the kids; making Christmas cards with a lino-cut is cheap-ish and easy to do; and I thought the tips from VV Rouleaux‘s Annabel Lewis were simple and effective – particularly the pretty ribbon rose idea.

What bothered me (apart from the incessant introductions and conclusions, which take up half the programme…) was the wreath-making. It’s all very well for Kirstie to skip around her woodland ‘garden’ in the depths of Devon gathering free holly and festive greenery, but for the millions of us who live in cities, or country dwellers who don’t have big gardens or their own wood, this is NOT practical. I can’t see myself gathering baskets of fresh holly on Clapham Common without getting a stern ticking off from the Lambeth park warden. And, there were quite a few mentions of the name ‘Meadowgate’, which, incidentally, she rents out for £2000 a week as a holiday house. Hmmm. Here are some behind the scenes shots from food stylist Sharon Hearne-Smith’s blog:

I thought the second episode about homemade gifts was the best show yet – chutney, soaps (although they took 6 weeks to dry out so way too late for this year but HEY HO let’s not nit-pick), sewing stockings and teddy bears – all these are practical ideas. The third episode, focussing on Christmas cooking and entertaining, was OK, too. Yes, there was an interesting but pointless visit to Parable, where owner Nigel Parker makes amazing candles using moulds taken from wallpaper printing rollers – not easy to replicate at home – but at least we were shown how to make tealight candles in a silicone cupcake tray, instead. The cracker making instructions were good, and the cookery ideas were simple but achievable. All in all, I think Channel 4 has improved the show – Kirsty didn’t drive a 4×4 gas guzzling Land Rover while lecturing us about eco-chic recycling this time, and most of the ideas were thoroughly do-able, providing you have the time. But, one question remains: who was doing her make-up? Why was she plastered in it in some scenes and totally bare-faced in others? The vampy red lipstick and luxurious Russian fur hat combo was possibly a step too far for a ‘frugal’ series, but I’ll try not to let this bug me too much. After all, it IS Christmas. – Ellie

LOVING THIS. It’s made of cross-stitched fabric with a polka dot backing and it’ll be in Cath Kidston shops in the autumn for £5. – Ellie

CK pin cushion

Emily Peacock cushions

May 19, 2009

Check out these lovely designs from cross-stitch craft queen Emily Peacock – follow the instructions in her cute kits to create these fantastic tapestries, then sew them into cushions.

kiss and hug

I spoke to Emily this morning, and she revealed she’s working on some new designs – so watch this space! Have a look at her retro rock chic patterns, too:

Pillows005shad-1

Pillows007shad

The great thing about cross-stitch is that once you get the hang of it, you can just do it while you watch TV…my kinda hobby! – Ellie

Make do and mend

March 11, 2009

I’ve been writing a feature about thrifty craft for Ideal Home this week, and got sent this fabulous little book called Make Do and Mend. It’s a reproduction of a wartime Ministry of Information leaflet, first published in 1943.

make-do-and-mendIt’s packed full of great advice, a lot of which is still relevant today, particularly the cleaning sections. I love the way it’s written – from an article about banishing the ‘moth menace’ to a classic tip about using the tops of old woollen stockings to make ‘cosy underpants for a small boy’ – it’s wonderful!

Look out for our thrifty craft feature in the July issue of Ideal Home. – Ellie