A little hat

I have been doing lots of knitting recently.  It is calming and meditative, a counterpoint to a busy day spent in front of a screen and piles of paper, speaking to people and reading and writing.  I love the feeling of the wool in my hands, and watching progress being made (sometimes veeerrry slowly, sometimes surprisingly quickly!)

One recent project was a little hat for a newborn, which I will shortly send to my colleague who has just had a little baby boy.  It has a bit of lace in it, which might be slightly ‘girly’, but I’m sure we don’t need to be so gender-prescriptive at this stage (or indeed at any stage).

The pattern is here: the story of a hat.  I used Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, a lovely soft washable wool blend.  I might scale it up and knit it for myself…

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Two-part blog: ribbon chalkboard and marbled cupcakes for hungry cyclists

I haven’t been very active in finding interesting or useful things to hang on the walls of our flat, partly because as we’re renting, I don’t feel like it’s really ‘ours’.  However, the other week I thought it would be useful to have a chalkboard in the kitchen to write lists of things on, so I don’t forget to buy another tube of toothpaste for the fifth time.  Mark, always happy to oblige if sawing, drilling, and painting are involved, found a suitable piece of wood and painted it with chalkboard paint, drilling two holes for string.  My job was to source the string; I completely forgot and in a fit of desperation/inspiration dug through my box of ribbons and found the perfect silky black ribbon to hang it up with, so much better than a piece of rope!

I hope you’ll agree it looks smashing.

You might also notice the message I came into the kitchen this morning to find….

I had mentioned to Mark that I might want to bake something this weekend, as my sister Lizzie bought me the Hummingbird Bakery ‘Cake Days’ cookbook for Christmas.  He was pretty excited and obviously thought he’d make sure I remembered my plan for the day!

I settled on marbled cupcakes, and after a temporary but very alarming setback in which my set of scales went bonkers and started lying completely about what things weighed (unopened 500g bag of sugar weighs 871g, apparently?!) which was only resolved by a quick trip to the local hardware store for a replacement, all went smoothly.  The recipe is fiddly and a bit unusual but worth following, as the sponge came out incredibly moist (a crucial factor) and the icing was very fluffy, although I much preferred the vanilla to the chocolate icing.

As soon as the last cupcake was iced, four hungry cyclists turned up wanting tea and cake!  Although cyclists are not exactly tough customers where sweet treats are concerned, the cupcakes certainly disappeared very quickly.

Bookcase project

I may have mentioned here before that Mark has been working in Bournemouth for the last four months, and travelling home to Bristol at weekends.  Needless to say, this was an undesirable arrangement for many reasons (although there was a silver lining in the cloud as he saw more of his family who live in that area), but it has thankfully now come to an end as he has left the horrible job which sent him there.  “Our” furniture reclamation projects which were embarked upon so excitedly when we first moved in to our current flat were put on hold as Mark’s do-stuffing time in the evenings and weekends became almost non-existent.  The true extent to which all things DIY are driven and completed by him also became very apparent, as if it wasn’t before!

So it was with glee in his heart on his first free day home that Mark headed down to the wood recycling centre to find a ratty old bookcase for the knock-down price of £10.

I never actually saw it naked in person as I was up in London, but according to Mark (who took all the photos in this post) these shots somewhat mask the fact that the wood veneer was in quite poor condition.

(Note- the photo above is a bit misleading- there is a mirror in the back of the bookcase which is actually reflecting a DIFFERENT bookcase which looks quite similar to this one, but was in better condition so we left it as-is.)

So while I wouldn’t condone blithely painting over lovely wood (witness our gateleg table as an excellent example of something which, in my opinion, should never ever be painted or even varnished), it seemed this specimen wasn’t sufficiently sacrosanct to warrant saving, and a few good coats of white paint would give it a new lease of life (and fit in with my current obsession for all things Scandinavian.)

It first had a good undercoat, then slipped into a white eggshell.

Ta-da!  I am already plotting how to fill up the shelves without him noticing before it’s too late.  In all ways, it is good to have Mark home.

A bare chair

A few weeks ago I mentioned that we had picked up some rickety chairs at a reclamation yard…

At the time we had acquired lots of bits of wood furniture all at once and I felt that stripping the chairs wasn’t a priority.  They also wobbled.  So they hung around, not really being sat on (the wobbles were just too alarming!), and just filling up space.

But then, I came home one day and Mark had not only fixed and glued them back together to stop the wobbling, but had stripped one of them as well!  It looks amazing, all mottled and worn, paler and warmer-hued than before.

A wonderful surprise!  Three cheers (again) for the furniture-restoring hero!

The table project

Our latest furniture project is a beautiful gateleg table which we found at a secondhand furniture shop for £65.

The existing finish was a very dark and sticky-looking varnish which was also very, very scratched.  We, meaning 95% Mark, 5% me, stripped and sanded it down over the course of a few weeks – those legs are pretty fiddly to strip, and there are eight of them!  We used a nitro mors stripper in a green tin which seemed to do the job well.

I then polished the top with a wax polish, and it came up beautifully.  I will wax the rest of the table as well, but in the meantime we are using it as a dining table and feeling very elegant indeed.

The next few weeks are shaping up to be quite busy so I think we will pause the furniture projects for the time being.  We have been getting out and about in Bristol though- more on that in the next post!

A quantity of chairs

In addition to the pink planks, we also picked up a number of chairs on Thursday.  They are not particularly sturdy (to say the least) but this was factored into the price.  They are very attractive though.

This is our ‘shabby chic’ white farmhouse chair-  all it needs is a light sand to take the sharp edges off, and then it will be left as it is.  It currently resides in the corner of the bedroom.

Two very rickety chairs indeed.  But charming… and we will attempt some surgery to see if they can be made a bit more sturdy.  They also invite the possibility of cushions, which are always fun.

And finally…

What will be, if I ever get around to it, my inaugural home upholstery project.  How hard can it be?  It’s just a circle of fabric and some squishy stuff underneath, I presume. Perhaps a bit of practice with a staple gun.  I am looking into it.  One thing there is no shortage of around here is tools with which it is possible to kill or seriously maim oneself (a circular saw was purchased and used with aplomb for the bed-building… what’s that you say?  We’re only renting a two-bedroom flat? Pshaw…)

Revealed!

Apologies for the drawn-out suspense!  Our internets are being difficult.

The pink planks have turned into….

a bed!

It is very exciting sleeping in a pink bed, particularly a hand-made one.  Mark constructed it over the course of a few hours by building a frame on which the planks sit, and then screwing in a few of them to stop them separating.  But it comes apart very easily in preparation for the next move, and also in case I get tired of the pink and want to, for example, paint them white, or turn them over and have them plain wood (although there’s scribbles on the underside which would need to be sanded off/otherwise dealt with).

The design was loosely inspired by this bed I saw on Design*Sponge.  I know ours is ever-so-slightly less minimalist and elegant, but pink was what there was.  And, large as our bedroom is, it’s not quite THAT big so as to allow for a proper wide platform on each side, but we can still stand on the edges of the platform to get into bed.

We also wanted a headboard, but on reflection I think it could be a couple of planks shorter. (Don’t tell Mark).  More on the fetching white chair in the next post…