Monday, 5 November 2018

Autumn at Kew: Glorious Glasshouses

It's time for another installment of OH MY GOSH KEW GARDENS IS SO LOVELY, YOU GUYS!!!

On my autumn visit to Kew I went for a long walk around the gardens admiring all the autumn colour and texture, and ooohing over the many magnificent trees.

I also spent lots of time in Kew's glasshouses, because they're a) lovely and warm to visit on chilly autumn/winter days and b) totally awesome. 

The green lushness of the Palm House is always a treat, and visiting during the quieter months of autumn means you get to enjoy it with fewer people around. Sit on empty benches. Soak up the quiet and the magnificence around you.

I absolutely cannot get enough of all the dramatic shapes in this place...

... and the interplay between the strict lines of the architecture and the soft wildness of the planting.

Being able to get up high and look down on all this lushness also never gets old! If I lived locally to this place I would come and sketch here aaaaall the time.

The Palm House might be forever fabulous but my unexpected highlight of the day turned out to be the Waterlily House.

I've blogged about this petite glasshouse before (it's a delight!), and knew it was a lovely little place to visit... but what really charmed me on this visit was the misty, slightly over-grown, slightly fading, autumnal vibe it had.

The same space as in the summer, but with a totally different mood! So good.

Catch up on all my posts about Kew Gardens.

View my travel archive for lots more posts about my days out in London and around the UK.

Friday, 2 November 2018

How To: Sew Modern + Minimalist Felt Christmas Tree Ornaments

A few years ago I shared a tutorial for making minimalist Christmas cards, featuring simple tree shapes cut from neon felt. At the time I thought "ooh, these would make fab Christmas ornaments, too!", cut out some extra shapes for making ornaments with... then ran out of time to actually make some for Christmas. Now here I am a whole four years later, finally getting round to it.
(As always, I am firmly team Better Late Than Never).

I used bright and zingy neon pink felt for my trees, stitching them together with lime (almost-but-not-quite-neon) green embroidery thread. Neon pink is a total nightmare to photograph but I hope these photos give you a vague idea of just how bright and fabulous these look IRL.

I love how super simple they are, but also how much they POP. They'd look particularly fab on a white tree!

You could, of course, make these ornaments in any colour you fancy - how about stitching a whole rainbow of trees and making a festive garland?

You will need:

- felt in your chosen colour
- contrasting embroidery thread (floss)
- the template sheet from this tutorial
- a sewing needle
- sewing scissors

Optional: narrow ribbon, sewing thread (to match the felt), sparkly stuff like seed beads or sequins.

To make each ornament:

1. Use the tree template to cut out two tree shapes from your chosen felt.

2. Thread a sewing needle with a length of embroidery thread, and thread it into the top of one of the trees (sewing into the felt but not through it).

Make a small loop of the thread, then sew another small stitch (again sewing into the felt but not all the way through it). Set aside the needle and knot the two ends of the thread to secure the loop you've created.

Trim away any excess thread. 

Alternatively you can add a ribbon loop, securing the ends with whip stitch and matching sewing thread.

If you'd like to add some sparkle to your tree (and make it a bit less minimal), use matching sewing thread to stitch some sequins or seed beads to the other tree shape.

3. Place the two tree shapes together and join the edges with blanket stitch. Use more of the embroidery thread, but this time use half the available strands instead of the full thickness of the thread. Keep your stitching as evenly spaced and sized as possible and finish it neatly at the back.

This tutorial is for non commercial use only: you can use it to make as many felt ornaments as you want for yourself or as gifts, but please don't make any for sale. You may borrow a couple of photos if you want to blog about this project, but remember to credit me and link back to this page on my blog, and do not reproduce my entire tutorial / share my templates on your site. Thanks!

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P.S. You'll find lots more free Christmas tutorials in my tutorial archive!

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Subscriber Exclusive: Christmas Candle Embroidery Pattern

November's free project for my monthly pattern newsletter subscribers is an embroidery pattern for sewing a winter candle!

You can use the candle and holly design to add some festive cheer to any sewing project, frame it in a 5 inch embroidery hoop, or embroider it on felt to make a fun ornament for your Christmas tree.

I stitched mine on cream coloured felt...

... and added a red ribbon loop to match the red candle.

I think this design would also look fab stitched all in white on a solid colour background (maybe red or royal blue - like these baubles or this snow globe ornament). You could also personalise it by stitching a name or year on the base of the candle holder.
November's pattern newsletter will also include a link to October's project: a tutorial for sewing a felt tree stump brooch.
Click here for more information about my newsletters and to subscribe!

Click here to visit my tutorial archive for lots more free patterns... including LOTS of Christmas projects.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Exploring Oxford: Jesus & Queen's

I think it's high time I shared some more snaps of lovely Oxford!

First up: Jesus, aka Jesus College in the University of Oxford of Queen Elizabeth's Foundation, was founded in 1571 and is the only Elizabethan College in Oxford.


I visited Jesus for free during the annual Oxford Open Doors festival (as you may have gathered from my Oxford posts, I'm a big fan of Oxford Open Doors), but you normally have to pay to visit.


Founded to educate future clergymen, and has a great history of being attended and run by Welshmen - though apparently there are no records of how much Welsh was spoken in college: "Official college records were mainly written in Latin; while the College statutes, effective from 1622, forbade public conversation, in class, hall and even the quadrangles, in any language but Latin, Greek or Hebrew."


I most associate Jesus College with the novel Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers - in which there's a subplot where a young man from Jesus becomes smitten with the main character, Harriet Vane. His name is not Jones, but another character refers to him as "Mr Jones of Jesus" which makes so much more sense now oh my goodness ("Who are you calling a bloody Welshman", snarled the young man, much exasperated "My name's Pomfret")

The college still has strong connections to Wales, and lots of Welsh students. You can find lots more info about the history of the College here, and take a virtual tour here.

Queen's, aka The Queen's College is a few centuries older than Jesus. You might think from the name that it had been renamed after Queen Elizabeth I during her reign, but in fact it was founded as Queen's in 1341, in honour of Queen Philippa (wife of King Edward III).


All the medieval buildings at Queen's were replaced in the 1700s, so the whole college is now Baroque in style and extremely grand. Just as Jesus was filled with Welsh students, so Queen's was filled with students from the North-West of England.


Apparently it's the fifth-wealthiest college in the University! Queen's is free to visit, but usually only by appointment as part of a tour group, so I was really glad to get a chance to look round during Oxford Open Doors.


You can learn more about the history of Queen's College and its architecture here, or take a virtual tour here (the tour even includes a typical student bedroom... though sadly an unoccupied one!).

Want to explore some more of Oxford's beautiful buildings? Click here to read all my posts about the city, or click here to browse my entire travel archive.