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, sales...in 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 photos....it 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!

Friday, 6 February 2015

On Being Grown Up Siblings

I have just turned 32 and late last year had the first real opportunity to spend time with my brother and sister and partners as real 'grown ups'!! Yes, crazy how late I am to this party!! And I don't mean pretending to be grown up while our parents continue to make all the decisions, buy the food supplies, drive us around etc, but like when we're all in charge of ourselves and our folks are nowhere to be seen!

This may sound like very old news to most of you. But since my brother has been the other side of the world for the last 7 years we haven't had much opportunity to just be on the same continent let alone in the same room!! In contrast, I'd happily spend every spare minute of the day with my lil sis, but I definitely regress when I'm with her! No growing up is done when we get together!!! Hehe!

So it was a great suprise to me when we spent a week in Bordeaux and the environs with all my sibling and not a parent in sight, that we actually all got on. Not just that, we actually enjoyed each other's company, had things to talk about AND had a brilliant time!! Blimey! 

Last time we spent seven days in close confinement (My bro's flat, the small hire car for our road trip and a small Air BnB pad in San Seb) was probably when we all lived at home, well over 10 years ago!! Miraculously we did NOT fall out, not once. Miracle! (I hope my Ma is reading this, she'll be so proud!! Hopefully that makes up for her dissappoinent at not actually being there with us!) 

We stayed up to the wee hours in the flat debating and setting the world to rights, nursing glasses of French Bordeuax and snacking on delicious smorgasbords of saussicon, pate and cornichions. We went for long companionable walks along the coast, we stopped off in cute little coffee shops, we traded eating habits with mixed picnics, we stopped for spontaneous lunges on the beach when the smell of moules-frites in the sunshine just got tooo much for us!  We surfed the beautiful warm waters of San Sebastien as the sun set and we shared a delicious tapas meal that went on for hours! In a word – bliss!

Growing up I never thought about what our future lives as siblings would be like. We were too busy bickering!! But it really is a revelation to spend time with someone who has the same background and outlook on life as you, but who diverted down a different avenue during early adulthood so have had very different growing up experiences. It means they approach the big things in a similar way, but still have such valuable advice, ideas and a different ways of living. It's like discovering new friends that you instantly just click with!! Magic!

I wonder whether we're still getting on so well when we reach the ripe old age of this Monsieur. I do hope so!

Oh, and it turns out we still like to take TONS of jumping photos!

How do you get on with your siblings now that you're 'fully grown'?! Any better or worse?! :)

p.s. Read more from our trip to Bordeaux region vineyards here

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

DIY Wedding Dress Part II: Materials

So, after the introduction and inspiration post on my wedding dress here, the saga continues with sourcing materials!!

First up on our search list was some embellishment. Bling! Oh yeah! This would dictate a lot of the design decisions, it was likely to be the most expensive component and the least easy to source. Man is that an understatement! We started with the usual high end haberdashery and bridal fabric stores of Berwick St, Soho. We riffled through every dusty box of beads, gulped at the prices for couture hand beaded pieces and combed the shelves of each store with a fine tooth comb! We diverted off piste to the Indian boutiques of Tooting and Marble Arch and experimented with fullly embellished saris, metallic leather and delicate lace. We were all a little weepy at one point over the perfect embellished lace, but the minute we tried it on my bodice we were all a little 'meh'!!!

Lace and leather!
Finally, on our SECOND visit to the couture fabric store Joel and Son, in Edgware Road, we stumbled upon the perfect piece! It was from India, hand sewn onto tulle with thousands of tiny crystals, pearls and beads in a super intricate pattern! The story behind that small piece of fabric is so incredible - it took three men in India two months to sew the whole piece!! It had a large motif along one edge and smaller flowers throughout and a simple scalloped edge along the bottom. It was just the right amount of sparkle, class, age and charm. I loved it and we dived right in. Deciding how much to buy was terrifying, every inch costing a huge amount extra but the risk of not having enough was equally unbearable!!

The exquisite detail
Once the bling was bought, the next stage was the material. We experimented with a huge range of different coloured silks all the way from a light purple through to pinks and peaches, creams and whites. Ma trailed around the shops of London looking for it!! She picked up swatches of all the contenders and we poured over them at home. I had originally dreamt of a warm peachy, dusky pink colour, to give richness and depth and history to it, but in reality many of year colours didn't feel so bridal or felt almost too vintage. After a process of deduction, we eventually we whittled it down to a rich and buttery raw silk that complimented the beading and looked delicious! It was just enough warm colour to not feel cold and blue-white, but it still reflected the light beautifully and we were sold.

Experimenting with colour
We returned to the shop to buy out supplies...are were quite literally nearly when we realised they had only 6 meters of this magical material! After a few rounds of mental arithmetic decided that 6m would be EXACTLY right amount for the dress. Phew! We took the lot and used every spare inch for the dress, train and flower girl dress! Talk about efficiency!!

Smiles all round after a successful shopping trip!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

2014 in Review!

We're past mid January now, so a belated welcome into our world 2015! What big shoes you have to fill. 2014 included sewing miles of bunting, working on my photography, a few small life events like throwing our wedding, honeymooning in Greece, renovating our hearts out, learning to love woodwork and sanding, learning to hate putting up curtain rails...and then eventually getting the hang of it! :)

But don't worry 2015, we've also had our share of worn out soles, shiny toe-pinchers and the leaky boots in 2014. It's been a roller-coaster - both my best and worst year so far. Naturally I don't share much of the down days here - when the choices I've made cease to make sense any longer. But that doesn't mean the ugly stuff doesn't exist - the last 6 months have probably been the hardest of my life (hmm maybe it had been bit a cruise up to that point in all honesty!). But I am working on trying to remember all that I have, to remain ever grateful for it rather than focus on what we don't have.

Anyway, for now I want to remember and celebrate my favourite bits of 2014, from the blog and personally:

Lost a fiance but gained a husband (and this is how I feel about it!!). Best bits of our wedding day was shared herehere and here. And there is even more to come (milking this one day for all it's worth!!) so that's enough for now.

After looking and wishing for about a year, we finally closed on our first home together! A blank canvas to turn into our special safe space. Or a black hole into which to throw every spare penny and spare hour? No, noooo!

We've started in earnest on the renovations, this has been a little under wraps on here - too busy actually sanding to post about it!! But in this cushion DIY we shared a little peak at of our bedroom at the half-way stage. More coming soon! More importantly than just getting to play house in a REAL house with bricks and stuff is we actually have room to invite folks round for dinner or have the 'rents over to stay without forcing them to sleep on the sofa (poor Mum!).

Designing and printing our own wedding stationery was a huge journey! From the initial letterpress sessions, devising a logo, designing and printing the final invites, orders of service, menus - the full works! And then learning how to photograph it...

A complete overhaul in the way I think about food. This one was a complete suprise to me! I've never given a thought to what I eat. In fact, I distinctly remember guzzling a whole grab bag of peanut M&Ms and thinking 'there, I ate the lot and nothing has happened! I should do that more often!' And so I did. Until 2014's spontaneous decision to quit refined sugar completely changed the way I eat. Wow. 

We welcomed my brother and his girlfriend back to Europe after over 7 years down under. It's been awesome and crazy to be able to actually hang out with them over the last few months and can't wait for many more late night conversations over a full bodied Bordeaux and slithers of saucisson! Plus sidekick Izzy landing in Brixton has totally made my year - I've got to spend sooo many hours in her company!

Making flower crowns with all my favourite girls! This was an EPIC day and we then go to wear them out, brilliant. Classiest hen do every. I'm so lucky to have such wonderful friends and family that humour my crafty desires! :)

I'm in the thick of my thirties now and they Rock! For anyone not sure sure about the big 3.0. - have no fear. People actually listen to you and take you seriously. You finally learn to not care what anyone else thinks an just DO what makes sense to you (sometimes we learn this a little too late, but better late than never?!). You learn not to stress about those folks who make your life harder and less enjoyable. You embrace those friendships that make you happy and who you can help too. You build up a tribe of folk around you that are all you need to survive and to thrive! 

So, here we go 2015, we're stronger, tougher and know what we want, so come show us what you've got!