Why not smile at a crocodile?

OK, so received wisdom is against it but why not? At least when we are talking about mock-croc effect!

We got new bedroom curtains recently – well, actually before Christmas but we’ve just been too busy to talk about them until now. Here they are:

From the photo, they look like they are a plain pinky-cream fabric (it’s a combination of lighting, less than professional photography) so here is a close up which shows the pattern and the colour more accurately:
The fabric is made by a company called Fibre Naturelle Ltd. It’s called ‘Marble’ (although it is clearly a reptile skin print) from their Milano range and It comes in a range of colours – this one is ‘almondie’. 
The curtains themselves were made by a company called Cotton and Chintz and the service from them was excellent. Julie brought round loads of samples, measured the windows and then came back to fit them when the curtains were made. It was all very friendly and efficient – and the price was highly competitive too!
We like them so much that we’re beginning to regret not having these tiles in the bathroom:
They are Crocodile in white, from Topps Tiles
So we are definitely smiling at a crocodile at the moment – is it just us or is this going to be a bit of a thing this year?

Very easy Christmas cushion covers

Now you know that we know Christmas is coming, but as far as we are concerned it doesn’t start until after Thanksgiving. Now that Thanksgiving is over, we can go all out on the preparations!

This year, we decided to make some special Christmas cushion covers and have to share how – so easy. No zips or buttons or anything tricky like that. Just promise that you won’t show any people who are serious about their sewing and might be upset if things aren’t done properly? We love beautifully crafted items just as much as anyone else, but sometimes – for something that’s only going to be used for a couple of weeks a year – all that’s really need is a quick hack. So if you can keep a secret and use a machine to sew in a straight line, you can make these envelope-style cushion covers with minimal expense and effort:

Here’s how.
1. Get your cushion pads. We used some we had already had in the cupboard.
2. Measure:
We had two that were 23 inches square and one that was 17 inches square. (They were only whole numbers in imperial measurements, so that’s what we went with.)
3. Calculate:
For the big cushion we needed a height of 23 inches, plus 2 inches for seams, and a width of 23 inches x 2 plus 6 inches for overlap (this is the most complicated bit). So that’s 25″ x 52″. For the small one it’s 18″ x 42″. That makes a total we needed of 68″ x 52″.
4. Choose:
This is Fryetts Fabric ‘Vintage Christmas’ in Rouge:
(To be honest, we saw it ages ago – but didn’t buy it because Christmas doesn’t start til December, right?)
Furnishing fabric usually comes in widths of 54″ so we needed a length of 68″ (or 1.8 metres).
5. Cut:
Because furnishing fabric usually comes in lengths of 54″, we cut two lengths 25″ x 54″. That meant for the larger cushions the overlap of the ‘envelope’ would be a bit bigger, but the hemming would be easier, because of the selvedge, the self-finished edge of the fabric, which doesn’t fray. For the smaller cushion, we cut a length 19″ x 42″, because otherwise it would end with too much fabric wrapped around the pad.
6. Sew:
We put each piece face down turned down half an inch along the top and bottom, pinned and sewed. 
(Always put the pins in at right angles like in the picture – that way you can sew straight over them and remove afterwards. If they are in lengthways, the needle will hit them and break – annoying, time consuming and possibly dangerous if you get a piece of needle in the eye.) The proper thing would be to fold the fabric over on itself, tack down and then sew, but for our purposes doing it this way was fine.
Then we turned in each side edge (selvedge) and did the same.
On a smaller cushion, you have to turn each side hem that isn’t a selvedge over on itself because otherwise it will fray and the strands will shed.
So now you have, for each cushion, a flat piece of fabric with all the edges turned in and sew down. At this stage, don’t be surprised if it looks a bit big!
7. Fold:
We laid it down, folded the left side in and then the right side on top with an overlap. The width should be the same as the width of the cushion pad. Then we pinned the top and bottom edges in place and sewed. 
8. Turn:
We turned the cover inside out, slipped the pad through the gap and plumped up the cushion. The results are in the picture at the top of the page.
So that’s it, Christmas preparations have begun! 
Holidays are coming, holidays are coming…


At least one good thing about the nights getting longer is that we get to pull the blinds and curtains and make the house cosy! Time to think about window treatments.

So, what to do about a big window – actually a trifold door – in the kitchen? Firstly, we didn’t want curtains. Fabric in the kitchen collects smells and dirt like any other surface so needs to be washed/cleaned frequently and frankly, with a big window that could be a lot of work. So we had a look at blinds.

With horizontal blinds, the mechanics are the problem. The window is to big to have a single horizontal blind, so would need several next to each other. But then what about the gap between them? And what about the hanging cords or rods? So that led us to think about vertical blinds.

There are really two kinds of vertical blinds: ones that are fixed top and bottom and ones that are made up of panels suspended from the ceiling. We didn’t want ones that were fixed at the bottom because we thought that when the blinds were drawn and the door was open, a track on the floor would be a trip hazard. So by now, we had narrowed it down to vertical panel blinds suspended from the ceiling. They can be mounted on a multiple track rail, which means individual panels can overlap and there is no gap where they butt up against each other. There’s one cord to operate all of them and it is hidden away at the side.

And at that we were just expecting to look at some sample books and pick out a suitable vinyl fabric, but after a chat with the lovely people at Albany Blinds Edinburgh we realised there was another, much more fun option. They can print just about anything on to a panel blind. So you can choose any professional quality image and they can print it! 
Now we know you’re too kind to mention it, but our photography is a long way from professional quality so whilst the idea of a favourite holiday snap on the blind was initially appealing, it didn’t take too long to realise that it wasn’t a good idea! Fortunately, there are whole libraries of beautiful, professional photos and images and for an appropriate (but not expensive) fee, you can buy the right to use them.  Two of the best are Getty Images and Shutterstock
So we asked ourselves: what would be a great view from a window? It has to be a nighttime view, because the blinds will only be drawn at night and a daytime view would be a bit odd. Nighttime in the country or at the beach is just, well, dark. The only thing that would really show up at night is a cityscape – and remember how great the view from Frasier Crane’s apartment looked? 
Now we just have to pull the blinds and we’re in Boston! 
Albany Blinds Edinburgh provided a great service and couldn’t have been more helpful.

Fine feathers make fine blinds

Way back in July, we had a trip to V V Rouleaux and bought this feather trim to put on a blind:

Some weeks later, it still hadn’t attached itself, so we just had to get on and do it. First thought was to sew it on, but that turned out to be a bad idea. The feathers are glued into a kind of ‘ribbon sandwich’ which means that the band at the top of the trim is very stiff. It also means that the needle picks up glue when it goes through, making it sticky and harder to use. When the blind still had no trim but had acquired a small bloodstain on the back, it was clearly time for a rethink…

Fortunately this was one of those times when the lazy solution turned out to be the right one (we love those) and iron-on hemming tape came to the rescue. We cut the tape in half lengthwise to make it narrow enough and then just lined it up on the wrong side of the blind, covered with a damp cloth and pressed with a hot iron for 10 seconds.

Here is the result:

The wallpaper is the very lovely Hackney Empire from House of Hackney – this picture shows more of it.

And here comes a tip of the kind that we only share with friends: For the last couple of years, House of Hackney has had a sale in the run up to Christmas with big savings on all their products, including wallpaper. There’s no guarantee they will do the same this year, but we’ll be keeping an eye out just in case. 

Oversize footstool – Leisure Footstools review

Do you remember a while ago we got new sofa covers? Well, what they really needed was an oversize footstool to set them off and above is the one we chose. Actually, we commissioned it – doesn’t that sound fancy?

There are lots available and they are all very nice but nothing was quite right until we discovered Leisure Footstools, who sell through ebay (check out their ebay shop here). They came close to what we were looking for and a couple of emails, some fabric samples and a phone call later, the lovely Chris had agreed to make just what we wanted – 130cm x 80cm in pewter coloured crushed velvet with wooden legs and brass castors. About 10 days later, here it is!

We’re delighted with the end result and the service was great – helpful, friendly and quick. The parcel arrived very well packaged to protect it in transit. (Oh, and let’s not forget the price – excellent value for the quality of the product).

So if you’ll excuse us, these feet aren’t going to put themselves up…

V V Rouleaux

This week we had a trip to V V Rouleaux in Marylebone Lane, London – a fantastic shop for ribbons, feathers and trimmings. The driving force was the need to find something to trim a blind, partly to make it look good and partly because (we can be honest, can’t we?) it hadn’t been measured up properly and could really do with being an inch longer… but nothing at the usual haberdashery shops was very inspiring. Time to visit the expert.
And there we found this wonderful feather trim for £11.75 a metre! Lots of other colours are available too, as well as many wonderful ribbons and braids.
As well as ribbons and trimmings, V V Rouleaux also sells ribbon flowers, corsages, hats and headresses and runs short courses in how to make ribbon flowers, hats and headresses, and tassels and knots. Check them out here. It’s one of those great shops were you come out just wanting to start a project with the goodies in the cute carrier bag:
A picture of the blind with its new trim will follow in due course!

Ikuva sofa cover review

We have a new sofa cover!

The sofa itself is that ol’ favourite, an Ikea Ektorp. It still has many years of wear left in it, but we wanted new covers and there was nothing that available from Ikea that hit the spot (not that they weren’t good, just that none of them had quite the look that we wanted).

So some googling led us to these people – Ikuva. They make covers for Ikea sofas and chairs, including some of the discontinued styles. And they have a wonderful range of fabrics to chose from, which you can also buy by the metre for your own projects.

This fabric is Fanfare, in the ‘heather’ colourway, which is both washable and dry cleanable. It took 4 weeks for the cover to arrive (as stated on the website), and the staff at Ikuva were happy to give an update on the timing so that we could plan for their arrival. They were very polite and professional and we think that they have done a great job! Plus the cover itself was good value – £245 (the price obviously depends on which fabric you chose) plus £8.95 for UK delivery. If you are near Leigh On Sea in Essex, you can save the delivery charge and pick up from Ikuva yourself.