Home is where the heart cushion is

This old thing? We just call it home.
Erm, other people call it Middleton Lodge, home of Lady G's Cookery school.

We live in a rented house. Yes we are mature married adults with two children and we don’t own a house. This mostly doesn’t bother me. In the current climate I am glad we didn’t listen to the family members who insisted that we get one of those 100+% mortgages a quite frankly we’d be screwed right now.

 

It bothers me sometimes. I can’t think of any of our friends who don’t own their own house. Every now and then I have a bit of a freak out thinking “OMG we’ve got no mortgage we are going to be working until we’re 105 or else we are going to be destitute on the street “. But my issues have only ever been financial ones. The last two flats we lived in were fab. The first one was a raised ground floor Victorian flat. It had an avocado bathroom suite, which let me tell you, I loved. As I went blinking and bleary eyed into the bathroom to do my morning ablutions I was soothed by the calming green and wood panelled bath, rather than a glaring white thing. The flat was in a fashionable area of town, with leafy avenues and poncey shops. The alcoves either side on the marble fireplace were bowed with the weight of our books. I loved it. Our last flat was On the first floor of a beautiful Regency villa. The living room was over 30 long and had 4 original 9ft sash windows. The flat was lovely and bright and big, and we had furniture and wicker baskets slung casually around the rooms, and our furniture was just the right side of shabby chic. We bought a massive 4 seater sofa, which conveniently hid all of Betty’s toys behind it. Both these flats were minutes walk from the fashionable town we lived in. In both these places I felt completely at home.

 

Both flats were sold from under us. The first when Betty was 3 months old. The second when I was 6 months pregnant and had a toddler. We were devastated. We now live in a boxy new build, nearer to the not-so-fashionable city, in walking distance of a Co-op and the school. One the upside we have central heating and double glazing. Our energy bills are next to nothing. We have a garden for the kids to play in. We have two floors; no snotty cow above us stomping around in her stilettos; no slacker below us, filling our flat with the fumes of stale marijuana. But this house feels a small and boxy, we are crammed into a suburban development in the middle of more suburbia. Our 9ft sofa that was dwarfed by our old flat now looks monstrous, and the shabby chic furniture looks shabby shit against the magnolia walls and plasticky doors. But mostly, it has no soul. It’s definitely what you would call a ‘first-world problem’ to feel depressed by a house, especially a brand new one, but I can help but feel a little down about it sometimes. DH feels the same. The house almost sucks the soul out of us. What an awfully trite complaint, hey?

 

Anyway, there is a point to this soul bearing, and it is that in this house more than any, we have had to work at making it feel like home. We can afford to move. We’d be mad to. Our landlord isn’t going to sell anytime soon, we have a garden, and a garage, it’s near Betty’s school, and needs absolutely nothing doing to it. Flat no.1 that we lived in hadn’t been decorated or remodelled in 20 years. We just have to make the best of it. But making a place feel like home when you have a constant sense of impermanence is hard. Much of it depends on the flexibility of your landlord, but you have to find ways of making the house feel like it is your home, adding your stamp without the stamp duty.

 

The reason I’m writing this blog post now is because recently I was discussing the issue with another blogger Life of an Expat Parent and she decided to host a link up. We want to have a series of posts about how to make a house a home. Most home style books and blogs rarely take into account renters and the lack of permanence and control we have over our houses. A lot of the crafting I do is to this end. Some of this will be familiar to my die hard readers, but to those who haven’t been following my blog I hope I can offer some inspiration.

Cushions are a really easy way add a bit of your own style to a house. I prefer an eclectic assortment. I say assortment; I have two currently, but am working on more. Cushions are really easy to make yourself, and simple cushions in bright fabrics can be a quick crafting win. These two took a little longer, more details on the heart cushion here and the wolf one here.

 

Blankets are another way of adding a bit of colour to your living space. Unfortunately due to being whatever the opposite of a completer-finisher is, blankets are my nemesis. These crochet squares never quite reached their dream of becoming a beautiful blanket, but were destined instead to brighten up a cheap upligher.

This cute chalkboard is great for keeping track of your shopping list, writing messages to other members of your family, or just doing seasonal drawings. It’s easy to make and easy to put up and take down. For the record, toothpaste is meant to be good for filling holes left by nails (caveat: I’ve never tried this!).

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We’ve had this stool since we lived in flat number two, where we could afford to have random pieces of furniture strewn around. Now it just gets moved around the kitchen out of the way according to which cupboard I need to get to. Or else the baby takes it so that she can reach something she shouldn’t have. We originally bought it from an antique shop but I expect a forensic analysis of the paint samples would date it to circa 1990. Anyway, I thought it was time to tart it up.

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A lick of paint and some easy crochet circles and it looks fresh and bright to match our new, modern and often messy kitchen.

 

I’ve never been a huge fan of the vintage/retro/nostalgia fashions that are popular now, nor am I a fan of ultra modern or contemporary fashions that will date. I am really inspired by the bright fresh colours and Scandi sleekness of By Frydd, and the eclectic mix of decor in Modern Vintage Style by Emily Chalmers.

And this one is on my wish list:

 

And finally for cheap furniture and accessories that aren’t completely devoid of style you just can’t beat Ikea. So in essence, renting a house doesn’t mean you cant make it feel like home. There’ll be more from me on this. My home is still a work in progress.

My first venture into craftivism for the We Believe You campaign

So, fired up by the Mumsnet “We Believe You” campaign I decided to take my first foray into craftivism, using craft to promote a socio-political message. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, but I’ve found it hard to get fired about anything. I mean, I can get faux-fired up about things, and off course there is plenty in the news to get worked up about, but my political knowledge is limited, and world events aren’t often at the top of my priority list.

 

But when I read about campaigns like the “We Believe You” and am reminded about the awful abuses people I know have faced, the embers start to stir a little.

 

I knocked a couple of things up in the space of last night and this morning. Now, normally I am in total awe of most of the crafters and artists I read about online, and what they manage to achieve. Today was my day at home with Iris, and because I have been feeling a little under the weather and running on empty my lovely husband spent the past 2 days emptying the laundry basket, cleaning the house, and making lasagne so that I don’t have to do anything except stop the baby from killing herself for two days and the go on the school run. So with that and the help of Peppa Pig I managed to produce a couple of craftivist pieces.

 

The first one is inspired by the mini protest banners developed by the Craftivist Collective:

More than 80% of women who are raped know their attacker*. Putting these out tonight was a bit of a whim, I drove until I found somewhere to put it. I chose a fence just outside the University campus. I have no research to back this up, but my gut instinct say that University students are pretty vulnerable to sexual attack. Young, sometimes naive adults, with their first taste of freedom, finding their way in the world, coupled with copious amounts of alcohol, close living quarters are almost a perfect storm for sexual exploitation.

 

Outside the University campus

 

The next one I fear hasn’t quite met it’s potential…

 

Laid out flat it looks cool, but I ended up dumping and running with this one. I drove into the nearby city which I rarely go to because I used to live in the nearby town which I ‘naice’ and the city is not. But the city is now closer and I should really get used to that rather than schlepping 6 miles into Naice Town. I parked my car at the station without paying for a ticket as it was 7pm and I thought I’d chance my luck, but already I was nervous. This was a difficult one too as I had no idea where this yarn bomb would fit so I just picked a post that I thought was suitable and got sewing, conscious of the men standing outside the nearby pub. I wonder if I will ever not feel stupid doing this?! But here is is anyway:

 

Well, if one person reads it and checks out the hash tag then it has served it’s purpose. Maybe I can inspire some other people to give this craftivism thing a crack. The stupid feeling only lasts about 3 minutes!

 

*Investigating and detecting recorded offences of rape. Home Office, 2007

 

 

 

Love is Making It’s Way Back Home

I forgot to blog about the little Valentine’s Day present I sent to my mum. She reads my blog so I didn’t want to give the surprise away beforehand.

 

The idea came from Crochet Spot which has a pattern, but actually it’s as simple as can be, a crochet square folded into an envelope. This is a great project for novice crocheters who are just experimenting with squares but want to actually make something.

 

The origami heart comes from Girligami but there are instructions for a similar heart here.

 

While we are on the subject of love, you have to check out this video Love is Making It’s Way Back home, made solely with over 12,000 pieces of construction paper. It’s a visual delight. I came across this fab creation via the Meet Me at Mike’s blog.

 

Spread a little love yourself, you don’t need 12,000 pieces of paper! One is enough to make an origami heart for the one you love. Have a lovely day!

I need your inspiration – a prize to be had!

A few months ago I posted about my charity shop finds, and one of them was this teeny tiny picture frame. I really want to cross stitch or embroider something in it, but I am lacking in inspiration, so I need your help. Something funny or ironic would be quite good, or just a lovely little picture of something. I have no idea so give me some of yours!

In return I am offering a book from my stash Stitch & Sparkle by Charlotte Liddle. It’s cute little book with ideas for colourful accessories. My favourite project is the peg dollies, which you can customise with lots of different outfits with scraps of fabric and ribbons.

Anyone who comments on this post with an idea for my picture frame will be in with a chance. Follow my blog or follow me on Twitter (@dillytante) for extra entries (but leave a comment to let me know that you have done so). It’s a fairly small book so I’m happy to post anywhere. Make sure you leave a blog/email/Twitter address so I can contact you. I will have Betty draw a name out of the Peppa Pig bowl hat on Valentine’s Day, so channel your muse and get posting but Midnight 13th February. Oh, I will actually stitch the one I like best put it into the frame. The aperture of the frame is 4×5.5cm, so I need big ideas that are small in execution.

Birthday butterflies

My lovely friend has recently moved into a new house. She lives in a village in the mountains in North Wales, and we went there for New Year. Her house is lovely, with bright white walls and simple rustic furniture, but she asked me to make her something to add a little splash of colour. So for her birthday in January I made her this pretty butterfly frame.

The butterfly pattern was from Marie’s Making, and was really easy. A bit more fiddly was the bead and wire antennae, but I made good use of my new glue gun. The butterflies themselves are actually crocheted with DMC and Anchor embroidery floss. It’s perfect for delicate creations, and while it works out more expensive than yarn, the range of colours is huge. The butterflies are mounted (with glue) onto linen in a glassless box frame from Sainsbury’s.

 

My friend loved the picture, she said it was the best present she’d ever had <cries with joy>. Unfortunately I forgot to take photos before I gave it to her, so these pictures are courtesy of my friend.

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love made for me…some presents for my family

Had the weekend from Hell here, with each of the family coming down with the Winter vomiting bug in turn. Sleep has been scarce. Bodily fluids have been plentiful. My laundry mountain is now so large it appears on an ordinance survey map.

Hey ho, enough moaning. I managed to finish off a couple of projects, the lure of the glue gun raising me from my bed. I have been panicking as this weekend has been a write off, and I have many projects that need finishing. I feel better having a few completely done rather than lots in a state of near completion.

These flowers are for my MIL, who loves anything I make her! The flowers are made using this Attic 24 tutorial, crocheting with DMC floss.

The hearts are for a family friend and were crocheted using this pattern. The box frames for both of these came from the Sainsbury’s website. They are cheap and cheerful, not brilliantly well made (in fact I have to send one back as it arrived broken) but for the money they are nice little frames. Both have the glass removed to get the benefit of the crochet.

And this sewing jar is for my niece. It’s made using one of the kilner jars I mentioned in a previous post. The pin cushion was a simple circle of fabric, with running stitch all around, stuffed, and gathered over the inner circle of the kilner jar. I’ve added a Cath Kidston tape measure, some buttons, some rubbon, pearl headed pins and some needles. I’m very pleased with this, and am loath to give it away! Fortunately I have another kilner jar left so I can make one for myself.

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love made for me…some fudge made of dark choccy

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This afternoon Betty and I made fudge for her teachers for Christmas. As with most of the things that I make, it was super duper easy. I used Nigella’s recipe. It calls for 70% cocoa chocolate, the good stuff. But at 700g for 2 batches of this stuff, and minimum £1 per 100g bar…well, I don’t like them that much! So I use half the good stuff and half the cheap dark chocolate (Sainsbo’s basics). To be honest you can tell the difference, but I’m still not spending £7 on chocolate.

 

I made half plain and half with peanuts and cranberries for a festive look.

 

I wasn’t very imaginative with the packaging but I’m adding a load a bags in so that the teachers and TAs can all help themselves to some to take home.

 

This stuff needs to be kept in the fridge, and in actual fact is delicious eaten straight from the freezer, where it will (theoretically) last longer. An excellent Christmas gift, and one that is really easy for kids to help with.