Monday, 4 May 2015

DIY Fantastic: Hallway Hooks

Does anyone else also have a fear of becoming a hoarder? Or is that just me?! Since visiting our upstairs neighbours years ago and finding her flat literally stuffed to the brim with all sorts of gubbins, it's been haunting me! My fear is made all the more real by my love for pretty but useless things and car boot sales! (What a toxic combination!) 

I had been hoarding these four gorgeous coloured hooks since early last, they'd always been destined for a coat rack and so it was time to put them into action! 

With no place for coats, keys and the usual paraphernalia they usually ended up as a mound on the end of the banisters or piled up on our sofa. Great for snuggling up under in winter, but not when you're in a rush to leave the house and scrabble through the pile looking for my favourite leather jacket!
So the solution was to create a hook shelf combo to come to our aid! 

We have also been hoarding (spot the trend here!? Maybe I should just give in and embrace it!) a pile of salvaged wooden floorboards from when we renovated the floors upstairs. They look super rustic here, but under that paint and grime the wood is really lovely old pine, beautifully worn and weathered! 

First we had to dry it out - which meant bringing in the damp and dirty boards into the bathroom for a few days. We then decided on a length, sawed then down to size and sanded off the grime. As you can see here, I brought in some muscles for this part!! 

'We' didn't sand them down fully, I wanted to keep some of that beautiful ageing that gives the wood texture and depth. But we did sand off the edges and corners to leave them smooth and splinter free. 

Once happy with the wood, we measured out the four spots to add the hook, evenly spaced along the plank and screwed them each in place.

The hooks I found in Tiger whilst shopping for wedding decor, ha! Tiger don't sell online (what sort of business model is that in this day and age?! Even TKMaxx, the ultimate designer jumble sale, and possibly,aherm I mean definitely my favourite shop of all time, sell online these days!) but you can see similar ones available in store here.

Here you can see that lovely texture  of the wood, yummmm!! 

We drilled a few holes along the wooden back. Think we opted for 3 or 4 to keep it secure. Measured out and drilled matching holes in the wall and then up it went!

Not entirely sure why we used the spirit-level - I swear there is not a single straight line or 90 degree corner in our house, it full of all sorts of curves and crazy angles!! Thank you London clay (but it is marvellous for the roses!).

We used the second plank to add a small shelf up above the hooks to keep the dust off our coats and add some plants and pretty things! We used simple black brackets and followed a similar process to adding the hooks. 

And there we have it, four big and bold hooks that bring a little (more) colour into our hallway! I bought these loooong before adding colour to the stairs, but by adding colours in a similar palette at the other end of the hallway, they tie things in very nicely.

On the shelf we added some car boot sale treasures and framed art - including a print I bought Mr Fantastic as his wedding present. I'd been lusting after this print by Clare at Tiger Food Press for months, the quote is brilliant and the mustang is one of our inside jokes!

For the meagre few pounds I spent on hooks, we now have a bespoke fixture that adds oodles of character to the hallway. I particularly love that the wood we used may even have been the original flooring when he house was built back in 1890, it certainly had enough layers of paint!! And now with a new lease of life, it can continue to contribute to the house's history! (Blimey, getting a little over sentimental here - got to remember this is a just plank of wood I'm harping on about here!!) Plus we now have somewhere to hang all our layers as we enter the house. Pretty AND practical - WIN!!!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Potting Shed Fantastic: Spring!!!

Bluebells appearing for Spring
Happy first day of Spring! Winter felt way too long this year and at last the days are starting to lengthen and I can feel the promise of spring in the air. At this time of year the occasional warmer, brighter day keep us hooked with baited breath for summer. And naturally, this starts me thinking about just one thing....gardening!! (Okay, as well as holidays, flip-flops, bbqs, beaches, sailing etc.!)

Anemone shoots braving it to appear above ground
This will be our first year with a proper decent garden! And I am beside myself with excitement! We've said goodbye to our teeny square of concrete totally encircled by brick walls and moved up a rung to a slightly larger rectangular garden, circled by four fences!! Haha, but there is definitely much less concrete so a clear step in the right direction! 

Today I wanted to share our priorities for Spring time in the garden this year. I have grand plans for the garden eventually, but given it take time to develop and mature I know this is a multi-year project, so starting small...


The cutest sweetpea shoots

I've already got a whole bunch of bulbs and seeds planters indoors and they are starting to show their sleepy heads! This is my favourite part of gardening - when the tiny shoots are in the safety and confinement of the controlled conditions of our house and you can see the little steps of progress made each day!! And before they are let out into the wilderness of our garden and become prey to all sorts of urban wildlife! :s

In fact, our dining room has pretty much been repurposed to an indoor greenhouse at the moment:

Ranunculus thriving in our indoor greenhouse!


On the outside, we need to cover the box of fences, and quick! I have already stated bulk buying all possible climber I can get my hands on!!

Honeysuckle starters
We have planted climbing roses (at least 4, I'm losing count!!) and my latest additions have been two honeysuckles on the shaded side. Plus we have added two thornless blackberry plants, a Japanese Wineberry and a Loganberry plant all at the bottom of the garden. Which may just have to become our soft fruit patch, yum!! :) 

Beautiful red stems of the Japanese wineberry
Ben's Valentine's Day pressie was a vine sapling - Pinot Noir no less! It's shooting already and we just need to find the perfect spot for it to get started in. And finally, to round off this collection of climbers I just want to add some summer flowering clematis to get some bright big flowers! 


Finally, on a slightly less glamorous note, composing. We have a giant composting bin that we've been adding to all winger long. The walk out tot the end of the garden in the dark and cold winter evenings is NO FUN! Particularly when you lift the compost lid and just KNOW it's full of slugs, worms and flies, but you just can't see them in the dark! Eeeek! But thankfully they are all working their magic in there to make usthe yummiest more nutritious humus ready for spring! 

We're actually close to maxing out on the compost bin so may wen have to strut a second! We're gonna have the best fed garden in the whole of London come Summer !!! :D 

More bluebells
As soon as this plethora of bluebells open up their blooms I'll be sure to get my camera out there once again. I plan to share a few snippets of our garden progress here over the next 6 months as we go from novice plant killers to pro green-fingered Bob Flowerdews!! :)

So, this is our starting point, what are you focussed on this Spring? Be it in the garden or indoors?!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

DIY Fantastic: Gallery Wall

Gallery walls are EVERYWHERE! (My Pinterest account is the PROOF! It's littered with them!) Who doesn't have one?! ME! That is until now...

There are hundreds of great gallery wall DIYs out there, including this one from the magical Emily Henderson and this from the gorgeous Homey Oh My. So I am not going to repeat all their words of wisdom! But, since moving into our new pad, I have been hankering to start getting things up on the wall. Going from bare white walls to fun filled colourful walls makes a MASSIVE difference. I've worked out THE most cost effective, fun way to get stuff on the walls. This is find the frames FIRST and then fill them SECOND. May sound the wrong way round to most people, but this way I don't have to pay through the nose to get custom frames for my photos, instead I just print out my photos to fit the frames I've picked up. Let me tell you more...

I've spend months hoarding up photo frames from car boot sales, charity shops, fact ANYWHERE I could find them at reasonable prices. This is part of my hoard:

I don't think I've spend more than £8 on a single frame, and that particular one was HUUUUGE and already had a great useable mount inside, so it was basically a two-in-one. Bonza! Most of the frames I've picked up have been in the range of £3-5 each. I'm looking for style, size, character, sturdiness and anything with an acceptable mount included is a great bonus. Anything in oak or a lovely wooden finish is also high up my list, but I'm also open to pale or dark frames that just need a little lift to get them looking pristine again.

First up we took all our frames apart, decided on which needed a facelift and set to it with some high-gloss spray paint. We started with a satin finish, but unless they are going straight from floor to wall (and I mean STRAIGHT, with no loitering on the floor or kitchen table as you pick out photos etc!) then it's a high risk strategy. Our satin finishes didn't make the original cut and had to be re-sprayed with gloss.

Some went white.

Some went black.

And the rest stayed wood, gold, distressed etc.

To fill these we had been collecting photos, greetings cards, post cards, posters, prints...aka anything we actually like LOOKING at. Once they're up on your wall we'll be doing a lot of that! :) the Pinterest worthy gallery walls are mostly highbrow art and prints, but I love a mix of family photos and fun graphics. It keeps it interesting and meaningful to us and our visitors. I love to have pictures of friends and family up on the wall, they are the people you've made all your memories with and it's a lovely gesture to be able to show them how important they are to you. 

Here we started playing withe layout on the floor of the livingroom to pull together a suitable arrangement. It took a few goes until we were entirely happy with it. I scoured the house for a few extras to break it up a bit - the mirror and ampersand I found worked a treat! :)

We kept the boldest colours and biggest frames central (i.e. the blue mount and the black frame). We mirrored the gold frames and yellow prints evenly around the gallery. The non-frames we kept to the periphery to soften the edges. Did I just make that sounds like there was some method in the madness?! ;)

First one up, the 'anchor' at the bottom centre of the whole gallery. Then we simply worked outwards from there adding in all directions. We didn't measure, use templates or a spirit level, we just went for it. Crazy maybe, but we got it UP. BIG WIN! 

So there we have it, Granted it's not perfect, to make it more dynamic I'd like to add a few larger frames into the mix and a few more prints/graphics. But it is a great start and our first gallery wall, so I for one am celebrating! :) You can also see it in real life action here.

What's going up on your walls next? 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

DIY Wedding Dress Part III: Design and Sewing

Now for the last part in this series - the actual making of the dress! (For the first two parts of this epic wedding dress series, see inspiration and materials.)

First we broadly planned the dress by mocking up the dress, swathing me in the fabric and pinning everything together to create a 'dress'! From here, Ma turned this into inspirational sketches and progressed these into a detailed pattern.

Using these patterns we made a series of progressive calico toiles. With each version I was pushed and pulled and squeezed in, until we had a perfect fitting bodice. It was a full family affair with mum pinning and tweaking, izzy giving feedback and dad in charge of project management!! :)

With the small and sturdy (ha!!) bodice perfected, we turned to the skirt. This was to be a full gathered skirt given shape by a layered net underskirt. We cheated a tiny bit here and bought one ready made - this thing was huge and made of hundreds of meters of netting!!

Naturally the dress evolved as we went through this process. Initially I was set on having a tule outer layer on the skirt, as per my inspiration! Ethereal, soft and delicate. But once we'd chosen the perfect silk, I loved it so much I wanted it on show! To be able to scrunch the silk in my hands, feel the texture and see the gorgeous colour of it. So we simply modified the plan.

Once the dress was all pieces together, then came the embellishment. We cut around the motif super carefully with nail scissors and arranged the first strip around the top of the bodice then created a jigsaw puzzle to cover the rest of the bodice! We pinned first and then painstakingly hand stitched each piece on with small invisible stitches.

This part was another serious team effort. Working round the clock Mum would sew all day and then in the evenings Izzy and I would get home to pick it up the evening shift! I can't even think how many hours we all put into stitching that on. But man was it worth it!! :)

With the few gems we had left we added some additional bling to the bridesmaid's dress - creating a belt of bling and adding the scalloped edge along the top of the bodice. This tied in both dresses and literally meant we didn't have a spare gem in the house. Efficiency!!

The restricted quantity of silk meant every cutting exercise was a real mathematical test. Especially the train! We saved back just enough silk for the sash, bodice and flower girl dress and made the rest into the train. It ended up a little longer than I expect, but you gotta live it large or go home, I say!! ;) We devised a system whereby the train could be detachable (heavy duty hooks!) - genius. Once that was decided, there was no practical excuse to hold back, we threw caution to the wind! I loved drama of the train, especially in church, but it was also a relief to finally unhook and feel free to dance the night away!

Ditto with the veil. Having ditched the plan for a tulle top skirt we now had a LOT going spare. Being ones to 'waste not want no't, we put it to use in the veil and as a result I had a Cathedral length veil, Woooah!! :) It was great fun....until flying ants started getting trapped in it during the was bit like wearing a GIANT insect net on your head. Nice. I channelled my inner next-top-model and posed my heart out until we could dash away from the infestation!

My dress was perfect for our wedding day, it truly was better than anything I could ever have dreamt of as a child, a teenager or a twenty-something! I had always hoped that my Ma would make my wedding dress. She was the ultimate patient and professional wedding dress whizz and my family was the hardest working sewing brigade in the land! :) Thanks to them all I got to wear the most spectacular, unique, couture dress on our special day. I owe them all the biggest thanks in the world!

Photo courtesy of Anushe Low

p.s. you can see plenty more photos of the final dress here, here and here

Sunday, 15 February 2015

DIY fantastic: Marshmallows

Who doesn't love a light, fluffy, chewy, gooey mouthful of goodness?! I for one truly LOVE marshmallows!!

Marshmallows have always been intriguing. At a posh dinner recently, Mr Fantastic's desert was accompanied by a home made toasted marshmallow! It was supper yummy and sparked much debate around the table as to how they were made! So, determined to find out I started researching and decided to give them a go.

Turns out marshmallows are incredibly simple. There are just two ingredients. Literally, two. Sugar and gelatine. I followed this recipe, specifically chosen as I didn't want to use egg white. Rather it uses gelatine for setting and whipping for lightness.

The production process is also equally simple (if treacherous!). This is not one for the faint hearted!! First you BOIL sugar and water for twenty minutes, stirring continuously. Cue mega arm guns workout! But that boiling sugar is HOT so you have to be mighty AND precise in your stirring! Some recipes called for a thermometer, which I don't have, so we just winged this a little. Twenty minutes of a continuous rolling boil plus an extra blast for the last 5 seemed to do the trick! 

Then the danger level ratches up another  notch as you whisk said boiling liquid!! :s Pour the boiling syrup into a LARGE bowl with the gelatin and whisk your little heart out...for another 20 minutes. I say large as you're looking to at least double the volume of your mixture, and some! We got right up to the rim of my largest bowl by the end and our poor whisk was definitely out of it's depth!! 

At this point it should be BIG and light and leave ribbons along the surface. Then you can go to town on flavouring, colouring and decorating! We divided the mixture up and made half with a dash of pink colour and rose water and another we left white and added orange oil. Yum! 

Then you decant into a large flat container lined with buttered baking paper dusted liberally with icing sugar, top with a another dusting of icing sugar and allow to set. Note: don't pop it into the fridge, cooling at speed will enable crystals to form and you'll loose the silky smooth texture. 

Finally, once fully set (I left ours overnight covered gently by a tea towel) tip out on to the work surface (dusted once again with more icing sugar!) and cut into any shapes you like. Dust each freshly cut side with more icing sugar and pop them, piled up high, in an air tight container.

We rolled a batch of freshly cut cubes (not dusted in icing sugar) in toasted coconut flakes and they were the firm favourites. You could use nuts, seeds, fun-fetti, whatever takes your fancy! 

Store in an airtight container and tuck into at every opportunity - My favourite is piled into hot chocolate or toasted on the fire! Stored carefully they should last up to a week, but they are DEF the yummiest when eaten fresh!! :) 

Out-take: this below is the sticky end of my delicious looking hot chocolate. Attempting to precariously balance it on a chair for an Instagram marathon resulted in disaster (got the physics all wrong!). Gutting and the clean-up exercise was a complete MISSION! :s Serves me right for prioritising Instagram and not tucking straight in! 

Monday, 9 February 2015

Fantastic Design Crush: Margo Selby

My two Margo Selby duvet covers just arrived!! And I am beyond excited!!

I MAY have mentioned Margo Selby here once (or twice!) before, ha!! And if you follow me on twitter you'll be well aware of my lusting! (And if you don't then time you joined the party!) And in real life it's no different - I can't seem to stop banging on about her! So I think I finally have to admit to having developed a bit of a design crush! :) 

There are not many designers out there who can drive me to such crazy lengths for the perfect pair of curtains. In an absence of this Jessica fabric being sold by the metre I have picked up not one, but TWO duvet covers to turn into curtains!!! Yes that's right! I've bagged the biggest duvet covers going to maximise fabric meterage and it's going to be an 'interesting' sewing project that will test my skills to the limit!!
From here
Margo Selby creates such fabulously textured textile - bright, colourful, tropical and dramatic! You can see lots more of her work over on her blog. I love the combination of pastels with zingy neons. The graphic patterns bring the colours right up to date and make me dream of being in a lush, dark dramatic jungle with a shaft of bright sunlight picking out the foliage. Magic!

The fabric I've gone with is a little less dramatic as I want to create a light, happy, poppy place that makes me happy to wake up to each morning! The Jessica fabric is a great combination of colour and pattern and still has the lovely textured weave and weight. Perfect for my light bedroom curtains. I'll share progress soon.
Floor cushion available at John Lewis
For more info, you can find out more on Margo's website here and follow Mergo Selby on twitter and pinterest, or buy her first cushion available from John Lewis these days.

p.s. See here for the pom-pom cushions I made using other scraps of the Jessica fabric!