Sunday, 31 July 2016

Crafting in July: hand embroidered butterfly hoop

"Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you" - Nathaniel Hawthorne

At the start of July I decided to create a piece of embroidery featuring a butterfly motif. I'd recently watched Butterflies: A Very British Obsession over on BBC4 and I was inspired to stitch one of these beautiful creatures.

I downloaded a free template from the web and transferred the image onto a piece of linen. I chose this particular motif because it would give me the opportunity to try out a number of stitches. In particular I wanted to attempt satin stitch which I haven't tried for many years...

I started by outlining the wings in backstitch using a lovely teal thread.

I moved onto filling in the lower wings with satin stitch. Like I say, I haven't attempted this stitch for a long time. I looked at a number of tutorials online and then took the plunge. At first I wasn't happy with the way it turned out. To me, the stitches looked messy and uneven. I had recently read the satin stitch tutorial over on the Sublime Stitching site.

I love Jenny Hart's laid back attitude to embroidery. She makes you feel that you don't have to get too hung up about it all...her attitude towards Satin Stitch is summed up here: "It will probably look really terrible to you. Stop looking at it. Set it down, forget about it, and then pick it up again later. I bet you will be surprised by how nice it looks"

So I've tried to take her advice and not stress about it too much. I need to practice more, but I think the overall effect now the piece is finished is good. I'm not a sewing machine, it's impossible to make every stitch is handmade after all.

I really enjoyed sewing this butterfly and I feel more confident with using Satin Stitch. If you are interested in creating the same butterfly motif, you can find it here on Mary Corbet's Needle and Thread website

With the school holidays in full swing, it's harder to find the time to sit down and sew. I need to think of a new project for August and it will probably involve a quote. I dyed some linen fabric a sunny yellow colour a few weeks back, so I'd like to incorporate it into my next crafting project...

I am linking up to August's "Crafting is my Therapy" with my butterfly hoop.

Me You and Magoo

The focus of this link-up is crafting for pleasure, basically taking some ‘me-time’ to unwind in our busy lives. It doesn’t have to be a finished project, we love seeing work in progress, planning posts or tutorials too. If you'd like to find out more about Crafting is my Therapy, please head over to this blog post.

This week I am also linking up with these lovely blogs:

HomeEtc over on and

Thursday, 28 July 2016

A year on the allotment: July 2016

July featured some of the hottest days of the year so far. The warm weather means our crops start to reach peak production. It also means more trips to the allotment to water the plants...which I don't mind as it's better than going to a gym.

This year we've had our first crop of blackcurrants. We've picked loads and I've heard people talking on Instagram about it being a 'good year' for blackcurrants. They are certainly very juicy. I made an apple and blackcurrant crumble with some of them, it was delicious. I don't think I've ever eaten fresh blackcurrants and it packed a real taste punch. Magoo declared the crumble was 'too tasty'...which I think is a thumbs up!

It's also the first year our Gooseberry bush has produced fruit. We've had lots of fat, juicy gooseberries which I made into a compote to pour over fresh yogurt.

Summertime means plenty of people are out and about at the plot. It's always lovely when someone passes on some of their vegetables to us. This year our broadbeans have been virtually wiped out by slugs and black fly. They look so moth eaten and only have a few tiny bean pods hanging off the sides. One of our neighbours felt sorry for us and handed me a bagful of broad beans from his plot. He also gave us a bunch of freshly picked radish. We have some growing on our plot too, but I never like to turn down free veg...

The community aspect of allotmenteering features in my five ways an allotment makes family life better blog post. In my opinion, allotments are one of last true community spaces we have in towns and cities. They are open to all, affordable and act as a green space in urban environments.

Thankfully, the peas Magoo planted in her raised bed have produced lots of pods. The broad beans in her raised bed have fared better than the ones planted out in the main beds. We've been picking a few pods each time we go to the plot. Popping peas straight out of the pod and eating them raw is one of the best perks of growing your own food.

July marks the month when the allotment beds are full to bursting. At this point in time we currently have the following crops growing on the plot:
- Parsnips
- Broad Beans
- Celeriac
- Beetroot
- Sprouts
- Potatoes
- Strawberries
- Butternut Squash
- Runner Beans
- French Beans
- Peas
- Raspberries
- Tayberries
- Rhubarb
- Sunflowers

We've managed to squeeze in quite a few after-school trips to the plot with Grandma. It's always lovely to catch the last of afternoon sun and Magoo loves running around after being in class all day. We're now in the first week of the school holidays and we're planning a visit to the allotment later today. Hopefully there will be more peas to pick...

This week I'm linking up with these lovely blogs:

"Making Home" over on

"Country Kids" over on

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Creating a sensory activity for adults living with Dementia

My husband has recently started a new job as an activities coordinator at a nursing home. He has worked as a support worker for many years now and has sung at a number of Dementia Cafes in our local area. I also work as a Shared Lives Carer and support a lady living with Dementia. You can find out more about our caring roles in my recent "It's Cool to be Kind" blog post.

a selection of herbs and flowers used in a sensory activity

As part of his activities coordinator role he devises ideas to stimulate the residents who live at the nursing home. Many of whom have limited sight, poor hearing and often live with dementia. One of the key features of his job is to promote discussion and stimulate old memories in order to try and keep minds as active as possible.

The home where my husband is the activities coordinator subscribes to the Daily Sparkle, a great tool for carers working with the elderly or dementia patients. The Daily Sparkle features evocative images, quizzes and reminiscence articles - all designed to stimulate memories and conversation.

collection of roses, lavender and homegrown herbs used in sensory activity

Taking this idea forward, he decided to create a sensory activity using plants from our garden and allotment. Fragrance and memory can be closely linked, certain smells often act as a trigger in recalling a long-forgotten event or experience.

homegrown rose used in a sensory activity aimed at adults living with Dementia

At the start of the week I helped him put together a selection of plants...these included:
- A highly fragrant rose
- Sprig of Jasmine
- Bunch of Lavender
- Handful of mint from our allotment
- Fresh Sage
- Fresh Oregano
- A few branches of Rosemary

homegrown jasmine used in sensory activity

It is true that your sense of smell can decline as you get older, but we chose plants with the strong scents. My husband also encouraged the residents to crush the plants, particularly the herbs, to release the smell. The sensory activity using fragrant plants proved to be popular. Those with the ability to see closed their eyes and tried to guess the name of the plant they were holding. Many of the residents have limited sight, so this activity was good for them because other senses like scent become more important.

Also, with limited mobility, some residents cannot access the garden at the home - so the opportunity to smell fresh plants was a pleasant experience for many. As an avid gardener myself, I take the scent of freshly dug soil, cut grass and floral scents for granted. If I were to lose my mobility or sight, then having fresh plants bought closer to me would be an important part of improving my quality of life.

rose, sage and jasmine used in nursing home sensory activity

I thought the large rose would prove to be the most popular scent. I was surprised when my husband told me it had been the fresh Sage that had prompted the most discussion. Many of the residents recalled cooking with the herb, particularly to make Sage and Onion stuffing for Sunday roasts and Christmas dinner. Before the days of packaged food, most people would have used fresh herbs in their cooking.

It's actually really lovely the Sage evoked memories of family meals. I think it's easy to forget elderly people living in nursing homes once had busy lives, running a home, possibly cooking with small children at their feet, multitasking - something many of us are familiar with. I'm glad the Sage from our garden bought back happy memories of families gathered around the dining table.

My husband and I recently signed up to the Dementia Friend initiative. The Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme is their biggest ever initiative to change people’s perceptions of dementia. Please visit the Dementia Friends website and take a few minutes to watch the video or attend an information session in your local area. And then hopefully you will pledge to become a Dementia Friend and help to support people in your community.

This week I'm linking up with these lovely blogs:
"Happy Days Linky" over on and
"Sharing the Blog Love" over on and
"The List" over on and
"Blogger Club UK" over on, and
"Making Home" over on

Monday, 4 July 2016

Vintage embroidery transfers and my first piece of embroidery

I went up in the loft the other day looking for suitcases. As is often the way when venturing into our loft, I got sidetracked by boxes of nostalgia. Whilst rummaging through one craft box, I was bowled over to find my first ever piece of embroidery. I think it was stitched when I was about eight or nine. The white cotton hankie given to me by my Mum 'to practise on' was still in the embroidery hoop. Exactly as I left it over thirty years ago.

I must've tucked it away when I left home to go to university. It has followed me around several house moves and it was lovely to see it again. Alongside my childhood attempts at embroidery were the vintage transfer sheets I'd used. These were my Mum's from when she first started to sew, so they date from late 1950s to early 1960s. Most of them were free gifts inside magazines, which my Mum must've carefully saved.

I grew up watching my Mum sew and she always encouraged me to have a go. I remember her showing me the 'Mazurka' piece she had sewn as a young teenager. It combined embroidery stitches and applique, I thought it looked beautiful. She made the appliqued piece of linen into a cushion cover and it sat pride of place in my childhood bedroom for many years. I don't know what ever happened to it, which is a shame.

I was in awe of her sewing skills and I must've badgered her to let me have a go. She gave me free rein to search through her delicate embroidery transfers. I was drawn to the flower posy and she ironed the image onto a hankerchief for me. She also gave me the embroidery threads from her childhood, which in turn had belonged to my late-grandmother. I blogged about the tin here.

In hindsight I bit off more than I could chew for a first project and I must've lost interest after a while. It has remained unfinished for over thirty years. I wonder if I could attempt it again now? Even as an adult it looks a bit daunting. Even though it's not complete, I do remember enjoying sewing my wonky satin stitch. As a child I felt relaxed by the repetition of pushing the needle in and out of the fabric. I enjoyed seeing the colour build up on the fabric.

It's something I still enjoy to this day and I have my Mum and Grandmother to thank for instilling a love of sewing at such a young age. When sitting with some embroidery, my own daughter occasionally watches over my shoulder. She is starting to take an interest in sewing. She can even identify some stitches and comments on 'my lovely sewing'...which makes me smile. I hope she will be inspired to be creative with thread too...

Me You and Magoo

I've linked up with July's Crafting is my Therapy with this post. I co-host #craftingismytherapy with Jennifer Jain. The focus of this linky is crafting for pleasure, basically taking some ‘me-time’ to unwind in our busy lives. It doesn’t have to be a finished project, we love seeing work in progress, planning posts or tutorials too.

This week I am linking up with these lovely blogs:

Craft Frenzy Friday over on

Share The Joy over on and

HomeEtc over on

Pick 'n Mix over on

Blogger Club UK over on

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Crafting is my Therapy #6 + Sugru giveaway

Welcome to the Sixth “Crafting is my Therapy” blog link-up.
I hope you’ve had a wonderful month or making and creating.

- June has been a hectic month for me. I have so many things I want to make and not enough time. I’m really grateful I started the Crafting is my Therapy project because it does spur me on to sit down and create. Even if it is just for half an hour. It doesn't have to be a perfectly finished piece of craft, just tapping into your creativity for a few minutes can help with your wellbeing. I did manage to sew this little “Crafting is my Therapy” hoop. It’s embellished with vintage buttons that belonged to my late-grandmother. I am hoping to make a start on a piece of embroidery featuring a butterfly motif in July.

In June we had a lovely selection of crafts added to our link-up.
It was nice to see new craft bloggers getting involved with our crafting community.
We loved seeing everything you’ve created.

This month we are holding another giveaway. The lovely people at Sugru have donated a fab prize. One lucky winner will win:
Sugru Starter Kit
Sugru Magnet Kit
Sugru 8 Pack in a range of bright colours

Never heard of Sugru?

“Sugru is the world’s first mouldable glue that sticks to almost anything and turns into a strong flexible rubber overnight. Invented for people looking to repair and improve stuff, it’s used by people in over 160 countries - from homeowners planning DIY projects through to people making small improvements to gadgets, appliances and even toys.”

Sugru is amazing stuff. Jennifer, my co-host, has used it many times and is a big fan. You can see her crafty Sugru makes here. Sugru actively welcome customers to share ideas with others. You can see tons of ideas on their website...I particularly love their “Craft & Making” section

You can find the Sugru giveaway rules at the bottom of this post...good luck!

Last month we also held a colouring book giveaway. There were 10 posts (not including the hosts) added to our link-up in June. Using the random number generator, I can tell you that the winner is…A Saucy Stitch! Two colouring books will be heading your way shortly.

Have you created anything crafty this month? If you sew, knit, crochet, paint, work with ceramics…please join in and share your blog posts.

The focus of this linky is crafting for pleasure, basically taking some ‘me-time’ to unwind in our busy lives. It doesn’t have to be a finished project, we love seeing work in progress, planning posts or tutorials too.

Grab the Crafting is my Therapy badge:

Me You and Magoo

I co-host Crafting is my Therapy with Jennifer Jain. She writes the popular craft blog Jennifers Little World

Jennifer hosts our Pinterest group board. Would you like your blog posts to be seen by over 700K followers? Craft Bloggers linking to #craftingismytherapy are welcome to join our board. It's a great way for your posts to reach a wider audience...

The “Crafting is my Therapy” linky will open on 02/07/2016 and stay open for the whole month – giving you plenty of time to get involved.

–You can link up with maximum of three posts per month, old or new.
–Grab the linky badge or link back to our blogs on your post.
–Please share the love and comment on other people’s posts.
–If you could share your post and the linky (using the hashtag #craftingismytherapy) on any social media channels that would be great. This will help us to grow the community. We will retweet all your posts via Twitter if you mention us (@pouchvintage/@JenniferJain )
–And finally, if you would like to follow me on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, you’re more than welcome! Jennifer Jain’s links are here too: Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.

Giveaway Entry Rules:
– One winner will receive the Sugru kits described above.
– The winner will be chosen at random from eligible entries to the linky this month.
– In order for an entry to be eligible it must be a relevant post, it must mention the "Crafting is my Therapy" linky either by text link or using the badge. It must link back to one of the hosts. The linky will remain open until 11.55pm (GMT) on the 31st July 2016.
– If the winner does not respond within 28 days we will redraw and reallocate the prize. There is no cash alternative. Invalid entries will be discounted.


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