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One of the great pleasures in my life is that of entertaining others in my home. I’ve always enjoyed having guests, whether friends or family, around the meal table.

Table For Six

Table For Six

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have found that the process of preparation for these occasions is an event in its own right. I have to ask myself a number of questions: what will please my guests? Do they have preferences food wise? What little touches can I provide to surprise them/ bless them/ make them feel at home/ make them smile etc?

I always approach the preparation stages with the following in mind. Perhaps these points may help you towards taking the first steps to being hospitable. At the moment, it may seem to be a daunting prospect.

  • Plan the menu well in advance – keep it safe and simple if this is your first time
  • Make as much as possible beforehand and freeze items
  • Make ‘To Do’ lists as you progress including shopping lists
  • Plan the timing of the cooker in relation to the courses you are offering
  • Lay the table completely in, if possible the day before
  • Welcome guests warmly from the very first moment
  • Have everything in place BEFORE guests arrive – drinks, snacks, extra serviettes, flowers etc.
  • Give yourself ‘ME’ time to get ready
  • Decide where you will begin in the house – I often like to start in the kitchen with snacks and drinks, then move to the dining room for the main courses, then over to the lounge for coffee, chocs etc. (Do not expect guests to sit on the same spot for 4+ hours!)
  • If there are choices for one of the courses write them down on a board. (I have 2 blackboards in the kitchen.) This gives people time to think and choose and helps you also
  • Consider giving your guests a little gift to take away with them – they will remember their time with you
  • If you have more than 4 guests, especially if they don’t know each other very well, you might want to have a relevant activity before the main eating begins
  • A theme for the event sometimes helps to give you ideas and co-ordinate the planning
  • Finally, make sure you know where you want your guests to sit at the table

IN OTHER WORDS – ORGANISE

I WOULD LIKE TO ENJOY THE TIME TOGETHER AS WELL. IF MY GUESTS SEE THAT I AM FRAZZLED AND DISORGANISED THEY WILL FEEL VERY UNCOMFORTABLE.

Last week I was privileged to welcome two couples into our home. I planned a ‘heart’ theme – well, it was so near to St Valentine’s Day!

For gifts I made small, lacy, lavender scented heart sachets for the ladies and wrapped up some chocolates for the men. These gifts were popped inside their glasses on the dining table.

Lavender Hearts 1

Lavender Hearts 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lavender Hearts 2

Lavender Hearts 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made card name labels for the seating positions and painted the hearts in with watercolours. If you would like to do the same, we can send you a copy which you can use for yourself. Please request it on the contact form on the web site or use the comments box below. There are 6 labels on an A4 sheet.

Seating Labels

Seating Labels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes in life it is worth giving just a little bit more effort. PEOPLE ARE IMPORTANT!

An Apple Themed Table

An Apple Themed Table

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The evening was very special for all concerned including my husband and me!

February Bloggings

It seems that many of you missed my first blog of 2015. I do apologise for that. Please take time to read it as it sets out my goals for this year.

‘TO MEND OR NOT TO MEND’
I washed one of my husband’s shirts the other day and realised, as I was ironing it, that the collar was badly frayed. I was faced with 4 options – 1. Dump it (that was not an option, the rest of it was still too good); 2. Buy a new one (an unnecessary expense); 3. Chop it up for the patchwork collection and the rag bag (I’ll save that option for a later date); 4. Mend it (now that makes more sense!)
I had a picture of my mother unpicking the old collar of my father’s shirts, turning them, slotting them back into the seam and then machining them back on. So, armed with stitch ripper in one hand and this wardrobe favourite in the other, I set about the task. It was quite an easy exercise really and the end result was very satisfying in more ways than one. Should you want to try giving a new lease of life to what most people would have thrown out, can I suggest that after you have pinned the collar back in the other way, you tack it in place before you use the sewing machine on it. This ensures you catch the seams evenly on both sides. It will be interesting to follow up the life of this shirt and see how it recycles itself in the future! The material is too good to waste.

 

The badly frayed collar

The badly frayed collar

 

The finished result - one 'new' collar!

The finished result – one ‘new’ collar!

 I mentioned recently that I was planning to run some batik workshops, taking people through the various stages of making a batik picture and helping them use different methods in the process. To make a complete picture in a day requires planning and the careful use of a hairdryer! Fortunately the melting point of wax is far higher than the low setting on a hairdryer otherwise a picture in a day would be an impossible task to achieve. Timing is also a crucial element. The following pictures show what YOU could accomplish in a day. The end product could be a part of a cushion cover, a tote bag or simply a pleasant picture to put on your wall –all your own work! Please consider taking part in a day workshop. Details are on the website and groups (no more than 6 people) have special discounts. Refreshments, lunch and the cost of materials are included in the final prices. Please contact me if you are interested. www.dotsworkbox.co.uk

1. Design transferred to cloth

1. Design transferred to cloth

 

2. First waxing

2. First waxing

 

3. First application of dyes

3. First application of dyes

 

4. Final result following more waxing and dyeing stages

4. Final result following more waxing and dyeing stages

 

BOOKS AGAIN!

My husband and I just love to be surrounded by books. I know I’ve mentioned it before but it’s worth stating again. I treasure every book on the shelf. Many of them hold precious memories. As a young girl my second home had to be the Public Library. I’d take the long walk home devouring the pages as I went, filling my mind with innumerable country arts and crafts, places, animals, peoples, poetry etc. And then it was back again either to renew a book because I was in the middle of following a pattern or stock up on something new that would expand my horizons. As much as I love every book on the shelf there is one book for me that I will never tire of and is top of my list. It is my well worn Bible.

The other day I took off its well-worn handmade cover intending to wash it and decided I needed to make my ‘friend’ another one. Of course, it had to have pockets for pens and pencils and notes. I made a simple pattern. I wrapped a sheet of paper loosely around it from the front to the back turning in just over half the width of the covers. I added 1.5 cms top and bottom. This was my pattern.

I cut out this rectangle from an odd piece of curtaining and finished off all the way round with an overlocker stitch or you could use a zig zag. I cut 2 rectangles for pockets, one for the spine and one for the inside and again overlocked them all the way round then applied them to the right side of the fabric with a straight stitch. I had planned to attach a contrasting strip of braid about a third of the way up the cover. I did this now, stopping either side of the spine pocket. I then turned in the edges of the 2 short sides and folded the right and left sides in towards the centre. I pinned 1.5 cms down and up with the right sides towards each other. I checked to see if the book sat comfortably in the ‘inside out’ shape and adjusted it accordingly (leave it a loose fit).

The next step was to machine these 4 seams top and bottom and turn the cover to the right side. The material across the top and bottom of the spine needed to be turned in and machined down – I used a decorative stitch. A strip of co-ordinating tape was attached at the top of the spine making a permanent bookmark. I decorated this top and bottom with some beads. I am thoroughly pleased with the results.

1. Cover shown inside out with short ends folded back and edged strip for spine pocket

1. Cover shown inside out with short ends folded back and small edged strip for spine pocket

 

2. One end sewn top and bottom and turned to right side

2. One end sewn top and bottom and turned to right side

 

3. Finished matching covers with bookmark tags and beads

3. Finished matching covers with bookmark tags and beads

 

4. Showing spine pocket and beaded decoration

4. Showing spine pocket and beaded decoration

Having made a new cover for my Bible I decided to make a matching one for my notebook.

What’s next on the agenda? – an item of clothing for myself; something for the house; a gift for a friend?  You will have to wait and see!

 

We did it! Our goals for the latter part of 2014 were to be able to use the lounge before Christmas and to eat in the dining room which had become a furniture store while we continued to renovate our house. The pictures are proof that these goals were achieved.

Lounge before with hole!

Lounge before with hole!

Wood burner installed

Wood burner installed

Lounge for Christmas

Lounge for Christmas

 

A corner of the lounge

A corner of the lounge

The dining room before

The dining room before

Dining table ready for guests

Dining table ready for guests

We are so grateful that this was accomplished (apart from a ‘few’ snaggings – there are always some!) Christmas seems such a long way away now but the time with family and friends during this very special season still remains precious. Our renovation goals for 2015 are to see the snaggings list disappear, tackle the utility area and deal with the garden, especially the greenhouse which has been precariously housed in our kitchen since last autumn – well, you can’t get everything on your list done!

Speaking of 2015, I trust that it has begun well for you all. You may have noticed that I choose to use the word ‘goals’ rather than ‘resolutions’. The latter get broken so quickly and then one ends up feeling a failure. This is certainly not an encouraging start to a new year. Of course, any goals we make should be achievable. Too great an expectation of ourselves puts us in the ‘failure’ slot again. I must share with you at least one of the many goals that I’ve written down in my notebook. It’s good to keep a record of them. In that way I can’t forget and the notebook keeps me accountable. It’s my incentive – we all need them!

My plan this year is to do more sewing and art. Now, I hear you saying that I probably do enough already. You are right when it comes to producing stuff for ‘Dot’s Workbox’. However, I felt I was neglecting the home and even myself. So, I am going to rectify the situation. Already this year I have made two matching quilted cushion covers to go on our new sofa that was so generously given to us by friends (aren’t we blessed!) and there are more in the pipeline, cushion covers that is, possibly even friends! For those interested in fabric, they were made from some old ‘50’s kitchen curtains which makes them ‘vintage’ – apparently so fashionable now!

Quilted cushion covers

Quilted cushion covers

I have also made an appliquéd table runner for our dining table that seats ten comfortably. This runner was made from a strong white cotton curtain that remained in the house when we purchased it. I have enough left to make two more runners – watch this space! Thank you, previous owners. I sketched just a simple design, made paper patterns of the individual parts, gathered up some co-ordinating fabric scraps, mounted these on some interfacing, cut out the shapes and then applied them to the banner, one design either end – very satisfying and not at all difficult. Please contact me if you would like a copy of this design.

Fabric scraps on interfacing

Fabric scraps on interfacing

 

Design and numbered parts

Design and numbered parts

Runner on table

Runner on table

Finished design

Finished design

More of this particular goal is to tackle my clothing situation. There is often something about an item of clothing that you like/don’t like/ wish was different/doesn’t fit as well as it could/want to make more interesting etc. I aim to upcycle/recycle/alter much of it. When it happens I’ll share some of the results with you. More art? Well, I’ve been planning seriously for providing batik workshops and possibly holding another exhibition this year. If anyone is interested please contact me. There will be special rates for groups. If you took a peek into my notebook you would find many more goals written down. I just may share some next time. I do hope I have inspired you to set a few goals for yourself if you haven’t already done so. We’re still in January, so it’s not too late!

To Round Up

Here’s a roundup of our recent activities – such a lot has been happening.

You will know of the two stalls we had on the 16th and 17th of this month (advertised on Facebook).

The ArtiGras in Ashford Kent on the Friday was very exhilarating. The Lower High St buzzed with a vast variety of handmade products accompanied by lots of entertainment. The weather was kind to us all day as well – sunshine all the way!

Ashford ArtiGras

Ashford ArtiGras

On the Saturday I left all the sewing craft products at home and had the opportunity to display instead many of my batik art pictures and products at the Deal Artisan Fair.

Dot's batik art display. Deal Artisans Fair

Dot’s batik art display. Deal Artisans Fair

This resulted in a number of people signing up for the batik and sewing workshops that I was advertising.

Batik Art at Artisans Fair. Deal

Batik Art at Artisans Fair. Deal

My contact with the exciting CCE project www.facebook.com/creativityenterprise in Ashford run by the amazing lady, Betsy, is producing dividends. They have taken some of my batik pictures to exhibit in a new gallery space that has been acquired in a more prominent position in the town. Do pay a visit to this new location if you are in the area and be amazed at the collection of both art and crafts displayed – all handmade. It is situated above the ‘Cafe Nero’ in New Rents, Upper High Street.

To Round Off:

We made a very quick decision at the end of this month to revisit YWAM The King’s Lodge, http://thekingslodge.com/ in order to join in with their 30th birthday celebrations. We were so glad of the break after doing such a lot of hard work preparing for the above activities. It was a real blessing to spend 4 days in the Nuneaton area catching up with old friends, meeting new ones and seeing the amazing changes that have been made in this old building that still means so much to us. What exciting days we are living in! It was certainly a time of refreshing for us.

 

New Pastures?

Les and I had such a lovely meeting with an amazing lady this week. Betsy has been responsible for setting up the Centre for Creativity and Enterprise in Ashford, Kent (CCE). If you are in the Lower part of Ashford High St, do go and visit the CCE. It’s off the alley (St John’s Lane) that leads to the Vicarage lane car park. The place just overflows with almost every craft imaginable. From the moment you enter the side door (you have to push hard and go up the stairs!), you are greeted with handmade crafts in every nook and cranny, on every level and in every room. Such a lot to appreciate! Betsy has also been responsible for organising the Ashford Festival – Friday May 16th and Saturday May 17th.

ArtiGras Poster

ArtiGras Poster

There’ll be lots of live music, stalls and much more. We will be there on the Friday with our ‘Dot’s Workbox’ craft stall. Please come and find us and at the same time support this Ashford initiative. We’d loved to see you.

Dot's Stall at the Deal Artisan's Fair April 19th

Dot’s Stall at the Deal Artisan’s Fair April 19th

Dot's Stall at the Deal Artisan's Fair April 19th

Dot’s Stall at the Deal Artisan’s Fair April 19th

Should you be in Deal on the following day (17th), we will be having another stall in St George’s hall (as before). This time we will be concentrating on Batik Art. Some new work will be on display. Again you have an invitation.

'Reaching into Sad Hearts'

‘Reaching into Sad Hearts’

Batik Covered Notebook 4

Batik Covered Notebook

Come and say ‘Hello’ Where? At  St George’s Hall, Deal on Saturday 17th May. Visit the Batik Art Gallery – http://www.dotsworkbox.co.uk/batik_gallery/bg_gallery_1.html

News Event

I had planned for another project in this blog entry but have been very busy preparing for this coming Saturday. I will be running a ‘Dot’s Workbox’ stall at Deal, Kent.

Les and I would love to have you visit us during the day especially if you are in the area. It will give you a good opportunity to see some of my products in real life – pictures on the internet do not always do them justice! We can have a good chat about the different items available. There will also be a few new items that have not yet been added to the website.

There are other stalls that you might be interested in as well ranging from woodcrafts to jewellery to stationery – ALL ‘HANDMADE’. So please, take a run out on Saturday, enjoy the beautiful seaside town of Deal and pop into St George’s Hall in the High St. You can even partake of a coffee/tea and cake if you wish.

 

Deal Artisans Fair

Deal Artisans Fair

I just hate to be without them. I gather them as a squirrel gathers nuts for the winter months – labels scrubbed off, washed well, oven dried and stored away in boxes at the top of my renovated, large, kitchen cupboard that reaches to the ceiling. It requires a certain amount of gymnastics to retrieve just one of these glass wonders. Every time I need one I ask myself, “Why do I need to keep so many?”, and the answer is always the same, “Imagine the rows of pickles, chutneys, jams, fruits and veg that will be my storehouse for the coming winter months!” Then I know why I hoard so many. Of course, it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I wish to save them from the fate of the cruel crusher!

I had cause recently to search for a particular jar that I knew lurked somewhere on high, so I performed the usual gymnastics and was amazed at the huge collection I’d amassed. The boxes were too heavy to remove in one go so there was no alternative but to empty them jar by jar. What a revelation! So many! Far more than I needed for next winter. Surrounded by this sea of glass in its varying forms of size and shape, I realised that I was grouping them. I determined to separate those that matched from the oddly, but often beautifully, shaped ones. Now it was crunch time. Either I make something useful with them or sadly they would be destined for another life. A very brief check with ‘myself’ saved them from the latter fate! I set aside a group of ten, packed away the remainder, exerting yet more calorie burning energy in the process, and thought on the opportunities presented to me as I descended to the recently renovated ‘Workbox’. Have I already expressed how much I love my new workshop space??

The creative juices began to flow freely as I experimented with odd bits of fabric, the scissors and needle and thread. Eventually I produced the following with more to come. Please click on the pictures to zoom.

We often have a lot of people in our home and the majority of them like to have a nice ‘cuppa’. They also appreciate having a variety of teas to choose from. Consequently I have boxes of many different kinds stashed away in the cupboards. I have also trained these guests to prepare their own ‘cuppas’. How sensible if they could see at a glance which tea they wished to have – regular, decaf, Earl Grey, Assam, all the fruit and herb teas and the spicy ones. I didn’t really want all these boxes out on the worktops. I also like to see things ordered – it brings a sense of calm into the kitchen.

These covers are easy enough to make, so, if you have more jars than you know what to do with at the moment, you can put them to good use and decorate your kitchen at the same time. Do make sure that you have enough fabric to complete your set. I used an old curtain for the outer and a sheet for the lining. As well as the fabric you will need bias binding, elastic and thread. Try to keep your colours coordinated and check your outer fabric to see if it has a pattern that needs to stay the right way up.

Now for the instructions:

Step 1: You will need bias binding to make loops for the name tags. Fold a length of binding in half and machine the 2 halves together. Cut off 6cm pieces for each jar you are going to cover.

Step 2: Make a paper pattern. Measure around the body of your jar and add 1.5cm. This is the length. Measure the height from the bottom to the neck (this includes the top and bottom turnings). This is the width. Draw a rectangle with these 2 measurements. Use this pattern to cut 2 pieces of fabric, one in your outer fabric, one for your lining.

Step 3: Measure the diameter of the jar lid and add on 7cm. Draw a circle with this figure and cut a paper pattern. Measure 2cm in from the edge and draw an inner circle on your paper. Measure in another 1cm and draw a 2nd inner circle. This will be the path for sewing on the bias binding that you will be threading elastic through. Using the pattern just made, cut out a fabric circle for the lid cover.

Step 4: With pinking shears cut around the edge of this circle to limit fraying.

Step 5: With a pencil, mark the 2 inner circles on your fabric and machine on a strip of bias binding easing it around and turning in the edges at the start and finish.

Step 6: Using a small piece of elastic stretch it around the neck of the jar to make a close fit. Add enough for the overlap. Measure this length for future reference. Feed your elastic through the bias binding, overlap the ends and join by hand. You have now finished the cap for your jar lid.

Step 7: MAKING THE COVER FOR THE BODY OF THE JAR
Fold one of your 6cm bias binding strips in half and pin it about a third of the way down the right hand short side of your outer fabric piece as shown (loop will be inserted into the side seam as you sew). See Fig. 4

Step 8: Join the long edge of the main fabric to the long edge of the lining, right sides together. Press the seam back and front. See Figs. 5 & 6

Step 9: Open out the joined fabric and press the seam back and front. See Figs. 7 & 8

Step 10: Fold the 2 short sides together, right side to right side, enclosing the bias loop.
Stitch down the length and then press the seam as before (front and back then opened out). See Figs. 9 & 10

Step 11: Turn the lining to the inside and press around the top edge. Turn up the 2 lower edges (about 1cm) and press. See Figs. 11 12 & 13

Step 12: If you have embroidery stitching on your machine, choose a pattern and decorate around the top edge and the bottom edge of your jar cover. If you only have a straight stitch, add a strip of braid or ribbon to these edges. Whatever you choose, the 2 lower edges will be attached to each other.

If you have reached Step 12 you have now completed the project. Well done! If you are making a set of covers try making the different stages all together. You will save time. Don’t forget to hang a label from the loop you added at the side.

The following are just a few more of my ideas for using jars, especially the small jars that come with many yoghurts and desserts:

  • WEDDINGS  –  glue sparkle to the top rim, tie a piece of lace around the bottom, stick on punched 3D butterflies and add a nightlight – very effective on the tables.
  • SUMMER EVENINGS IN THE GARDEN – fill numerous small jars with nightlights and line winding paths and ponds with them – hugely dramatic.
  • CRAFT ITEMS – use them to store your supplies of very small items e.g. sequins, beads, punched shapes of flowers, hearts, butterflies etc.
  • CHILDREN’S CRAFT – they make sensibly sized individual glue pots.
  • TABLE GIFTS – use them as welcome gifts for your guests and fill them with homemade jams, marmalades etc.
  • BEDROOM POTS – very useful for keeping handy items such as cotton buds, small brushes, lipsticks, even more candles. I have yet to cover mine to match the bedroom decor!

Finally, I was given a lovely bunch of roses the other day in some of my favourite colours, mixed yellows, oranges and reds. I popped them into a brilliant blue vase that I treasure, but the neck of the vase was too wide to support them without cutting them down. Not wishing to deny them their stately stance, I placed a narrow necked jam jar into the vase, transferred the stems into it and now I can enjoy them to the full. I feel as though I’m looking at a living painting by Turner with all the rich colours that he loved to use. Delightful!

I’d love to hear about all the things you have made so please communicate your successes. If there is anything you don’t understand, do ask and I’ll try to clarify things. Until next time ——— Dot

Dot's Workbox

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