Thursday, 5 October 2017

Furniture update

Hello again

A few weeks ago Mike finished making a traditional Scottish 'cutty stool'.  It's more a chair than a stool, but lower and wider than a normal dining chair.


We first saw a chair like this when we visited friends in Fife, and went to Kellie Castle.  They seem to be a kind of cottage furniture, and had a bit of revival in the 1930s when similar ones were made by a craftsman called Lorimer.  These days, it seems no-one is making them.


Mike's made this one from ash, with really beautiful grain.  Doesn't it look particularly lovely with a quilt nearby?!


Should you be interested in having your own cutty stool, please visit our Etsy shop!
Vicky xx

Friday, 15 September 2017

Christmas stars - now available to buy

I know, I know, it's only September.  But you might want to have a look at these, as they look lovely any time of year, not just Christmas!


These are fused glass, with a silver bail on the back for hanging.  They look quite magical when they catch the light in a window, or from fairy lights.


Each is about 11.5cm high (including hanging loop) and 9.5cm wide.  At the moment I have made them in sky blue, light turquoise blue and pale aqua blue.


Now listed in my Etsy shop, Taigh Solais.  Or, just enjoy these pretty pictures!
Vicky xx

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Voile scarf

This is a quick one - I finally got back to sewing.  Seasalt (nice clothes) now sell some of their prints as yardage, on voile!  Good news if you like their prints, which I do.  I wish Boden would do this too.


So a while ago I bought a big chunk, intending to make some tops for me and Kitty, but that hasn't happened yet.  This fabric is silky and soft, and probably as light as Liberty lawn.


When I saw some giant turquoise pom-pom trim in Boyes, I could tell it would go very very well with this print - it was crying out to be a scarf!


I have plenty of fabric, so I cut a strip off (40cm long, full width), hemmed it and put on the trim, job done!  Two metres of bobbles was enough to do both short ends and one long side.  There should still be enough left to make a Sorbetto top for Kitty (free pattern from Colette!), and possibly one for me.


I know what I'll be wearing all summer now!
Vicky xx

Friday, 23 June 2017

Slapton Ley (glass panel)

Slapton Ley is a large, freshwater lake in Devon with amazing wildlife which includes many rare species.  It lies right next to Start Bay, separated from it by a fragile shingle spit.

This glass panel was designed and made for someone who has a lifelong connection with the Ley.  As I've never been there, I had to make sure I got it to "feel" right!  I did a lot of internet searching, and talked about how the place looked with people who know it well.  This is the final design:


Starting from the bottom, we have the sea (Start Bay), the shingle spit, the freshwater lake with two grebes, and a sky with giant hogweed silhouetted.  Although it's possible to see rare species such as Cetti's warbler and bitterns at Slapton I didn't include them as they tend to stay hidden.

Here are two pieces of the panel ready to be fired in my kiln:


I really enjoyed making this one, starting from no knowledge and learning a lot about the Ley in the process.  And here's a close-up of the 'shingle' and 'sea' pieces:


After lots of hours spent scratching paint, two firings of 12 hours each, then cutting and soldering the lead (plus polishing!), it was done.  As I couldn't find the right pink for the sky, I went with blue - and now I prefer it.


One more for luck:


Next, I'm doing some glass paint tests to see if I can improve the firing results.  There'll be lots of little mini-glass-pictures!
Vicky xx

Thursday, 4 May 2017

80th birthday quilt

Well, it's been a while since I made a quilt!  I've been sewing clothes, but not blogging them - I find them very difficult to photograph well.  A quilt, on the other hand, I love to take pictures of.


This one is a present for my mum, for her 80th birthday, which was last weekend.  I've managed to use up a great deal of stashed blue fabric making this (although there still seems to be a whole lot left...), and have only had to buy a metre of Kona white to complete the front.


For the back I needed to buy a three metre length (it's Dashwood Twist in teal), and of course the wadding (Dream Request).  Luckily I had some fabric that worked for the binding already (two prints which were similar enough I could mix them together).


I was rushing to finish this in the end, and finished stitching the binding down on the car journey south (I wasn't driving).
Here's the quilt on a chair Mike's just completed, it's the same design as this one.


Vicky xx

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Fishy on a dishy

I made more mats!  About three years ago I made a mat to put pans on (here) - well now it has eight cousins to go on the dining table.


These are made with a top layer of linen (actually some napkins I bought and chopped up), a middle layer of quilt wadding, and a cotton backing.  Each fish outline is machine stitched, and the spots (Kona solids) added by applique-ing and free-motion machine embroidery.


Creating the fish was the first step, stitching through both the linen and the wadding.  Then I stitched the backing on (right sides together), turned through, and stitched around the edge making a 1cm border.  Such a simple process, I can't imagine why it took me 12 months to finish them!


As before, I must credit Syko for inspiring this fish design, but I hope I have added something here!  Each fish has different coloured spots, two of one colour plus two other colours.  The white thread is a thick top-stitching type for extra definition.


Vicky xx

Sunday, 9 April 2017

My vintage Singer

About 20 years ago, I was given this sewing machine by a friend - it had belonged to her mother, and she wanted it to go to someone who would use it.  On and off, I have used it, but I feel I should do more sewing with it as it's such a lovely machine.


The serial number dates the machine casting to 1898, but the patterns in the enamel don't fit with other machines of that age - they look much more like 1930s graphics.  So it's exact age is a mystery, but it's probably at least 90 years old.  As it's made of a lump of cast iron it's very heavy, but as long as you don't have far to carry it this is an advantage, as the machine doesn't wobble or rattle.  When in action the noise from it is a gentle PRRRRRR, with a rhythmic clicking as the needle moves up and down.


At the right hand end are the fly-wheel and hand crank - the fly-wheel does two jobs, because it helps to keep the machine running smoothly as you crank it, but it also winds the bobbins if the bobbin-winder is pushed forward so that it's rubber wheel runs on the rim of the fly-wheel.  So clever - and, you can disengage the needle mechanism while you wind your bobbin, just as on modern machines.


This machine has a 'vibrating' bobbin case; instead of spinning on a fixed horizontal spindle like in a modern machine, this bobbin, in it's shuttle-shaped case, moves backwards and forwards to take the bobbin thread through the loop of the top thread.  According to Wikipedia, this vibrating system was replaced with the modern rotary bobbins because they allow the machine to run faster, with less vibration - although I must say that my very solid Singer machine vibrates a whole lot less than my modern, plastic, electric motor machine!


So, as I would really like to complete a whole project on this machine, I am having a think about what might be possible.  It doesn't do zig-zag (and possibly not backwards either), but stitch length and tension are adjustable.  Straight seams are obviously easier than curved, as you only have one hand to steer the fabric with (yes, the other is your motor).  Suggestions are welcome!


Vicky xx

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Stools n things

Mike's been busy in his workshop, making very lovely 'Windsor stools' and a three-legged chair.


Here are two stools made of ash.  These have scooped seats, turned legs, and steam-bent "stretchers" between the front legs.  Very comfortable, perfect to keep handy in a corner (or for fishing on a river bank?).


Here, we have a three-legged "occasional" chair.  This fits really nicely in a corner, having only one back leg, so would be perfect for a bedroom.  Two turned and three hand-shaved spindles form the back, and there are three turned legs.  The quilt can also be seen here!


I would recommend this chair for occasional use, or as a bedside chair; to keep the design uncluttered there are no leg stretchers, so heavy use would put more strain on the leg joints.  Of course, it's fine to sit on! It's just that a chair with stretchers will stand up better to constant use.


In the photo above you can see how the horizontal crest and back spindles are joined.  Each spindle fits into a hole in the crest, and then the outside and centre spindles are also fixed with small, strong wooden pins called treenails.


Vicky xx

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Uffington white horse

It's back to glass today!  A long time ago I lived in Oxfordshire, and would sometimes visit the village of Uffington where there is an ancient chalk horse carved into the slope of White Horse Hill.  It's reckoned to be about 3,000 years old, and is a beautiful, fluid, stylized shape.  Here's a particular lovely photo of it:

(photo credit:

Anyhow, my memories of this place, its waving swathes of grass and the nearby lush woodlands have inspired my next piece of stained glass.


I started with wild garlic flowers (again) at the bottom.  The technique I use for painted glass is to apply the paint as a thick, opaque layer, then scratch it back to allow the light to shine through the pattern.  It takes a long time, but gives a lovely crisp image.


Here's my worktable as I'm about to start putting paint on glass - pretty messy!  Both the green piece of glass I'm going to paint, and the (glass) paint palette are on a light box, so I can make sure the paint is really opaque.


In the middle of the window is a grassy hillside with the horse, and above that a stand of trees which are characteristic of those along the Ridgeway.  The paler green glass is mouth-blown and bubbly!


Here's the finished mini-window - about 15cm wide and 25cm high.  It's slightly hard to see, but the orangey-red glass has pretty streaks like a sunset.  It changed colour slightly when fired, which is something red glass can do.


I'm planning to explore both the 'trees on the skyline' and 'ancient Britain' aspects of this a bit more in the future - more chalk figures, and ancient sites to come!
Also, I have woken up my Etsy shop after a long sleep, you can find it here.
Vicky xx

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Socks Yeah! (but not about socks)

This beautiful yarn is called Socks Yeah!  It's from Coop Knits.


I just spent out on eight skeins of this loveliness, which I've been promising myself since November, when I went to the Knitting & Stitching Show in Harrogate.  There, I bought Jane Crow's crochet pattern Mystic Lanterns.


I couldn't resist the colours in this scarf, and I already knitted socks with Socks Yeah!  Each mystic lantern is formed with treble crochets, edged with double crochets - a very clever pattern that looks more difficult than it is.


One more picture for now of the start of a mystic lantern - I'll update soon with some finished lanterns!  I'm planning to make a loop (or infinity) scarf, rather than the trad long version.


Also, spring is here and I found these pretty blue squills about to burst into flower in the garden!


Vicky xx

Thursday, 16 March 2017

The wild bird

Quick post today, back to glass briefly.

This mini window has a bird, perched on a branch over wild garlic flowers - perhaps it's in a woodland near here, where the wild garlic will soon be in flower and filling the air with it's amazing smell!  I can't tell you the exact species of the bird - top secret - so apologies if you are 'good' at birds and are wondering what it might be.


As before, I have painted the glass, scratched the design in it (very like using scraperboard), and then it's fired at 600 degrees C and becomes a permanent part of the glass.  Each piece is then fitted together with the lead strips, which are soldered together and polished with grate-black.


More glass pictures on Flickr!

Vicky xx

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Waxed cotton tote

Here's a bag I've been meaning to make for a long time (two years?) - a tote bag in waxed cotton, with leather handles:


I bought the waxed cotton so long ago I can't remember where it was from (!) but I think it's pretty easy to find these days.  The leather I bought as one long, inch-wide strip (from eBay I think), and the rivets are sturdy screw-threaded ones.


I made this bag wide enough, and with box corners, so that I can fit a pair of flat shoes in the bottom.  In January I did a lot of travelling for work, using trains and taxis to get to client meetings, and found myself changing my shoes a lot.   For the Underground I needed my sensible flat mary-janes, but they're too scruffy to wear straight into 'proper' meetings - so I would stop in reception and stuff them in my bag, swapping for smart heels!  Then in the taxi back to the station I'd change back into the comfy shoes!


Inside this bag I tried hard to stick to a plain lining, but a tiny piece of spotted cotton sneaked in. The rest is Kona sage and kale.
Each strap end is attached with two rivets, which have to also pass through a second piece of leather due to their length.  This also makes the attachment stronger, since it's very unlikely that the rivet head will pull through the leather from either side - leather doesn't "give" much, whereas fabric does.  I had to make holes in the leather with a variety of large needles and scissor blades, as I didn't have a leather punch at the time.  I do now, and it's a lot easier! Buy one.


It's hard to see in this photo, but I also put a small ticket-size pocket on the outside of the bag.  This is to save scrabbling in pockets etc when you quickly need your train or bus ticket.  I've already used this bag loads, it's my current favourite!


Vicky xx
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