Sunday, 29 June 2014


Pottering ... I do like that word. The dictionary defines it as 'to move about without hurrying, and in a relaxed and pleasant way'. Doesn't that sound appealing? I've been making an effort to spend at least 5 minutes a day pottering around, and noticing what I do in a mindful way. Doing things like this:

Making myself a cup of tea to take into the garden for a few minutes. Here are my favourite mugs on the kitchen shelves. I've already admitted to having a thing for candles, lanterns and baskets - I think mugs could be added to that list. Which one today?

Remembering to look up. A couple of nights ago, I saw that the setting sun had illuminated the contrails across the sky, making a large 'X'. Looking at the sky is something I like to do, and I always make time to notice at least once in the day what it's doing.

Having British-grown seasonal flowers around the house. I love all flowers, but like it best when they are in season, and reflect what is growing in people's gardens at this time of year. These Sweet Williams were from the supermarket - just £1 a bunch!

As well as redcurrants, picking raspberries, blackcurrants and tiny wild strawberries from our garden, and freezing them. Once I've got enough, I plan to make some jam or jelly. Picking them is a task that cannot be rushed, but it's very calming after a day at work. Looking for the bright berries amongst the green foliage is like looking for treasure and is very engrossing.

Going for a short walk along the local cycle-path which has been built along the old railway line. On a summer's evening the setting sun lights up the leaves, making the vegetation look verdant and lush.

Smelling the flowers. In this post I mentioned that my parents had recently given us a William Shakespeare rose. It's blooming at last, and it's gorgeous. It's a deep crimson colour, cup-shaped, with a lovely rich scent. I've noticed in recent years how much rose perfumes differ between varieties.

And finally, Clover lying on the rug in a patch of warm sun. Her fur is incredibly warm and soft as she dozes. She really knows how to relax!

Walt Whitman stated that we can find “Happiness, not in another place but this place...not for another hour, but this hour.” I think that's what being mindful is all about, and when I can manage it life is the richer for it.

Friday, 20 June 2014


Tomorrow is the longest day of the year, or Summer Solstice, when the hours of daylight are at their longest and those of darkness at their shortest. Around this time comes Midsummer's Eve (followed by Midsummer's Day). Different cultures celebrate it on different days, some on the day before the Solstice, and others a couple of days later on the 23rd June. In northern European countries, such as Sweden, it is celebrated on the third Friday in June with bonfires, singing and feasting.

Midsummer's Eve was traditionally a magical time when the human world and the fairy world meet. Our ancestors built fires to celebrate the longest day and to bless their livestock and the forthcoming harvest. It was also held to be the best time for people to divine their future love, by making potions and performing rites using herbs and flowers which are at their peak at this time of year.

Many writers have been inspired by Midsummer's Eve. In 'I Capture the Castle' by Dodie Smith seventeen-year-old Cassandra celebrates her 'rites' by gathering flowers and lighting a bonfire:

'wild flowers - I can't remember if that is traditional or if Rose and I made it up: mallow, campion and bluebells for the garland to hang round our necks, foxgloves to carry, and we always wore wild roses in our hair ... There wasn't a breath of wind as I climbed the mound. The sun was down - usually I begin the rites by watching it sink ...the sky beyond Belmotte Tower was a watery yellow with one streak of green across it - vivid green, most magically beautiful ...I watched until the yellow faded, too - then turned towards the moon still low over the wheat field. The blue all around her had deepened so much that she no longer looked pale, but like masses of luminous snow'

In Shakespeare's comedy, 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', a group of lovers and actors are lost in the forest on Midsummer's night. The fairies who live in the forest control and mislead the humans until the morning when order is restored. It has a magical, ethereal quality and the language evokes the beauty of summer flowers:

Years ago just before we got married my husband and I went to the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre in London to watch a production of this play. It was a magical experience, and the audience sat entranced as night fell and lanterns and fairy lights lit the stage.

The novelist and poet Thomas Hardy also captured that magic in his poem 
'On A Midsummer Eve':

I idly cut a parsley stalk,
And blew therein towards the moon;
I had not thought what ghosts would walk
With shivering footsteps to my tune.

I went and knelt, and scooped my hand
As if to drink, into the brook,
And a faint figure seemed to stand
Above me, with the bygone look.

I lipped rough rhymes of chance, not choice,
I thought not what my words might be;
There came into my ear a voice
That turned a tenderer verse for me.

My own Midsummer traditions are modest (no dancing or lighting bonfires for me!). I always have in the house flowers from the garden and a scented candle . I love Yankee Candles and my favourite is this one, Midsummer's Night, which has a heady and summery perfume.

 Whether you mark the occasion or not, it's undeniably a very special time of year x

Thursday, 19 June 2014


How gorgeous the peonies are now! I love the sheer generosity of them as a flower. 

All winter they are nothing more than a tiny clump of  scruffy-looking leaves at ground level, and then in the spring they come to life and start to grow, sending up striking reddish leaves from the earth.

Then buds form, round and tightly packed with petals, like a Brussels sprout.

Slowly they begin to open, and show a glimpse of their deep pink petals.

Then they open, and all of those petals start to unfurl.

Just when you think they're fully open, they reveal a contrasting centre of bright egg-yellow stamens.

I've planted a few peonies in our garden, including this unusual one. The label described it as red, and it turned out white with red streaks. 

In the back garden I've planted a red and a pale pink one. They won't bloom until next year, so that'll be something I'll look forward to. In the meantime I bought a bunch of pale pink, frilly ones for the window-sill.

They're gorgeously feminine, and in the Language of Flowers they symbolise shame or bashfulness because nymphs were said to live in their petals. They are also considered to be one of China's national emblems, and feature frequently in oriental art.

I dry their petals and mix them with rose petals and lavender flowers to make pot-pourri and scented bags, a reminder of summer all year long x

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

June Evenings

This week I've been making sure to enjoy the lovely summer evenings we've been having. Life is busy, but there are moments here and there after work when I relish being outside in the light. June is such a gorgeous month, with the longest evenings of the year, so I've enjoyed watering the plants that I have in pots in the little area outside our kitchen door.

I listen to the house-martins screaming and swooping overhead as I fill the watering can, and the evening air is cool after a warm day. The sun's rays are still surprisingly bright and warm, even at 9 o'clock in the evening.

Yesterday after work I picked some roses and made some more rose-petal shortbread.

The petals looked gorgeous in the colander together in so many shades of pink, their perfume heady and sweet.

I've also started to pick the redcurrants which are ripe now. They really are one of the prettiest of fruits. The berries look like translucent glass beads, and I imagine making a necklace from them in my mind's eye. Instead I'm freezing them with a view to making some jam or jelly.

The raspberries are ripening too, but we're eating those straight from the canes, sweet and warm in the sunshine. Raspberry is one of my favourite colours, and I love it here against the soft green leaves.

When I do go indoors, it's fascinating to watch pairs of goldfinches coming to the bird-feeder for the niger seed. They're incredibly busy at this time of year feeding their young, making endless journeys to the feeder all day long. Their plumage glows with flashes of red and gold in the sunshine.

Life doesn't get much better than a warm evening in June x

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Summer patchwork

Lately I've had the urge to have a gentle project on the go which I can pick up and put down, and which meanders along very nicely. Life's been very busy at times, and I want to enjoy the slowness of a project which isn't going anywhere in a hurry.

I've made many cushions, bunting, bags and square patchworks on my sewing machine, and ended up rushing to get them finished, so that I can admire and use the finished item. Here's a striped patchwork cushion cover which I made last summer.

That's always fun, and I get a sense of achievement from having made something. However, this time I felt like making something which you can't rush, something hand-stitched, and I remembered patchwork. When I was at junior school I was taught to make hexagonal patchwork out of crazy 1970s brown and orange swirly fabric, a mix of man-made and natural fabrics. Sadly that lovely item is no longer with us, but I do have a piece of hand-sewn patchwork which I made in the '90s from a Laura Ashley kit. The pieces were already cut out and colour co-ordinated, and I sewed them together in my chosen design.

I love the soft hues of lavender blue and pale yellow, so spring-like and fresh. I've always been a big fan of Laura Ashley, and have a small collection of fabrics which are now called 'vintage'. Once I'd used up most of the pieces, I wasn't sure what to make it into, and so I backed it with white cotton and use it as a cover for one of my baskets.

I've amassed quite a stash of pretty floral sprigged cotton over the years, and so I chose a combination of pink, red, pale blue, pale yellow, soft green and purple for my design. I included fabric from a top and some pyjamas which both of my daughters wore when they were younger, a personal touch which increases my fondness for this patchwork.

 I drew a hexagon onto card by using a pair of compasses to make a circle. I then used a protractor to measure out the circumference of the circle into 60 degree sections, and joined these together with a ruler to make a hexagon. I drew around this template to make lots of paper hexagons, and cut out my fabric hexagons with a 8mm hem allowance (this was a rough measurement). Then, using a contrasting thread, I tacked the fabric hexagons onto the paper hexagons, folding the hems over as I went.

You can see the piles of each colour gradually growing.

After a while I had a a little stack of fabric hexagons, ready to go. 

I carefully over-stitched them together in a random design, trying to even their repeat out as much as possible. It quickly started to grow.

And grow.

And grow. 

I'm really pleased with how it's turning out. It's inspired by Kaffe Fassett's designs, full of colour, and very higgledy-piggeldy. But what I like the best is that I have no idea of what I'm making with it! I'm just going to let it grow, and when I'm ready to stop, I'll decide what it is by its size - maybe a table cloth, or a throw, or even a bedspread. I'm just loving sitting quietly every now and then, carefully hand-stitching a bit of summer into each piece.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Liebster Award - Second Part

After Jill at Emerald Cottage kindly nominated me for the Liebster award, I posted the first part of my response here in which I revealed 11 random things about myself. Now it's time to answer the 11 questions that Jill posed for me, so here goes!

1) What is your favourite craft activity?
At the moment I'd say crochet, sewing and jewellery-making in that order.

2) What was the last project you finished?
Three blue and pink necklaces which I'll blog about soon.

3) What would be your ideal crafted gift to receive?
An intricately crafted patchwork quilt, because I never seem to have time for really big projects.

4) What is your favourite season?
Late spring, although early autumn comes a very close second.

5) What is your favourite craft-related non-blog website?
Probably Pinterest because it's stuffed with ideas, and also Ravelry. The time flies when I'm on either of these websites.

6) Which craft activity have you never done but would like to try?
One day I'd love to have a go at stained glass-making, and make some beautiful panels for our front door, like this.

7)What was the last magazine you bought?
Country Living, my favourite. I love the gorgeous photography and lovely locations, as well as the seasonal crafts and recipes.

8) What was the last book you read?
'Under Milk Wood' by Dylan Thomas, a poetry play for voices set in the fictional Welsh town of Llareggub. I love his use of language and the vivid characters. BBC1 have been screening a Dylan Thomas season recently, as this year is the centenary of his birth.

9) What did you want to be when you were little?
When I was young my best friend and I always wanted to have our own craft shop together. I also wanted to be an author/illustrator.

10) What is your favourite thing about blogging?
Discovering a lovely community of creative, friendly people!

11) How did you choose the name of your blog?
I wanted to make it personal to my home and who I am. My husband noted the other day that our door is actually quite purple, but I think 'The House with the Purpley-Blue Door' isn't quite as snappy!

There - that's enough about me! It's time to nominate some other lovely blogs for the award. I'm afraid I've only managed four, but I've really enjoyed discovering lots of other crafty people out there in blog-land. So, I nominate:

Hawthorn at I live, I love, I craft, I am me
Elizabeth at Thomasina Tittlemouse
Steph at Caravan Crafts
Caz at Wainwright &Wright Co

And here are my questions for those nominees:

1) Which place has most inspired you creatively?
2) How many craft projects do you have on the go at the moment?
3) Where would your ideal picnic-place be?
4) Which is your favourite craft book?
5) Have you made any clothes for yourself?
6) What is your favourite colour?
7) Do you have a favourite craft-related TV programme?
8) Do you have a favourite seasonal recipe?
9) Is there something you'd like to make, but haven't got around to yet?
10) What have you most enjoyed making?
11) What made you decide to start a blog?

So that's it - have fun visiting the blogs I've nominated!

See you soon x

Saturday, 7 June 2014


There's something very special about roses. They are very close to my heart, and are many people's favourite flower. They are so evocative of summer, making us think of summer weddings, country gardens, perfumed bouquets and, of course, romance. They have been appreciated and collected for thousands of years and have a long, rich history.

 Poets have written about them, from Robert Burns' 'My luve's like a red, red rose' to D H Lawrence's 'full-blown yellow Gloire de Dijon roses'. Medieval poets wrote songs about them, such as 'There is no rose of swych vertu' (anon c 1450), and Shakespeare famously referred to them in Romeo & Juliet: 'What's in a rose? That which we call a rose /By any other name would smell as sweet'.

In June the roses are at their peak, and most of ours are in flower now. The garden is at its most perfumed in this month and on a warm evening their scent hangs in the air. I try to drink it in, making the most of it and wishing I could store it up for the long winter months. I've managed to squeeze a few roses into our garden, and some were already here when we moved in, like New Dawn which climbs up our front wall. It's such a delicate pink, and with a sweet fragrance.

There's also this lovely rich yellow rose which I think may be Graham Thomas. It's not very strongly scented, but the flowers are very full and cup-shaped.

This one is my favourite. I think it's Gertrude Jekyll, and its blooms are exquisite - very full, with many folded petals in a deep, clear pink. Best of all is its perfume. It's very strong and sweet, and reminds me of Turkish Delight. 

I love its shape as the bud opens up, like an elegant goblet.

There's also a little rose which we refer to simply as Gran's Rose. This is because it was taken from a rose bush which belonged to my great-grandmother by my parents, who are keen rose-growers, and given to me. She died aged 97 when I was 3 and, although it's not a spectacular rose, I am very fond of it.

This gorgeous peach-coloured rose was also given to us by my parents, and I've managed to forget what it was called, but its colour is so very pretty. They also recently gave us a rose called William Shakespeare which will flower a bit later on. I can't wait to see it in bloom!

Here is the apricot rose in a vase with a red climbing rose which grows over the back of our garage. (This photograph was taken last year - our lavender isn't out yet).

Growing over an arch is Compassion, which is pinky-apricot in colour. Its scent is quite light and fruity, and the centre has the most lovely stamens. 

On the other side of the arch is Etoile de Hollande which has deep red blooms with a strong, heavy fragrance. I love it, but it's flowers are so heavy they always droop.

We recently bought Mortimer Sackler, which is another climber. This one is a very graceful plant with open, cup-shaped flowers and a delicate scent.

I love its buds and leaves which are very elegant and twirly.

This is a pretty rose which was here when we moved in. It's small with lots of tiny pink flowers, and no perfume.

I spotted some more beautiful roses in the Botanical Gardens in Bath recently. It was a warm, sunny day and I took the opportunity to photograph some different varieties. Here's a gorgeous moss rose - the stems and sepals are covered in a scented 'moss'. You can see it very clearly in this photo, and I think it's very attractive.

Here it is in bloom, with a bright yellow centre.

Here's the centre of a pretty cream-coloured rose, with stamens that remind me of the centre of an anenome.

And this is a wild rose, also known as dog-rose or, my favourite name, eglantine. This is the rose which all the other varieties originate from, and I love it for its simplicity. Delicately scented, and with five pink-tinged petals, it can be found climbing through hedgerows at this time of year. 

Well, this has been a long post, hasn't it? I could talk all day about roses, and there's so much to learn about them, but I think I'll stop there, and pop outside for another sniff of that wonderful scent.
See you soon x

P.S. You can find out more about old rose varieties at David Austin Roses - there are so many to choose from, and they're all gorgeous!