Someone’s missing …..

by Helen on July 7, 2014

Today we went down to South Milton Sands.  I had some forgotten bits and pieces (including two unopened bottles of champagne – woo hoo!) to pick up from The Barn after the wedding reception, and thought it would be nice to fit in a trip to the beach as well.  The beach was stunning as always, and not at all busy as we were there quite early.  I say we … but someone was missing …..

There was no playing at speedboats – “that’s no fun by yourself” thought Daisy …

And no charging in and out of the waves.  Just a wistful gazing out to sea, hoping her big brother would somehow miraculously appear.  We both missed the big furry one – and he’s not home yet :(

This is because Ben is spending the day at the vet for a couple of minor operations.  His eyes have been very red and itchy and he’s suffered a series of infections – apparently as he’s got older his eyes have become baggier (I can so relate to this!) and his bottom eyelashes are turning inwards irritating his eye.  Luckily this is a minor procedure and the problem can easily be corrected.  But poor Ben is also having a big back tooth extracted – it has cracked and decay has set in.  He has been very quiet for the past few weeks, and although he hasn’t shown any sensitivity in that area I think it is causing him some discomfort.  So he’s going to be very sore when he returns home and Miss Daisy will need to be gentle and considerate until he’s feeling better.

So to take my mind off poor Ben, I decided to assemble the first project for the August issue of the Bustle & Sew Magazine – and began by painting a hoop (something I promised myself I wouldn’t do again for quite some time after we painted nearly a hundred for the wedding!).  Then after binding the bottom part and inserting my embroidery it fitted beautifully snuggly as a lid for one of the Ikea jars left over from the wedding sweet table ….

Useful as well as beautiful (to paraphrase William Morris!).  And it’s sitting on some of the blocks for my new quilt.  I might need to go and piece some more now to occupy myself whilst waiting for the vet to call and tell me it’s time to pick up Ben, who will need a lot of tlc over the next few days.  The pattern for my button jar top, as well as instructions for assembling it into a well-fitting jar lid, will be in the August issue of the Bustle & Sew Magazine.




Rosie Paws and Sparkle Reindeer

by Helen on November 16, 2013

I sometimes feel as though I’m running on the spot when it comes to Christmas presents.  I love to give handmade gifts to my family and, as well as sewing, I enjoy knitting too.  

I’ve knitted for Rosie since before she was born(!), all kinds of jumpers, cardigans, hats and scarves, and even now she tells me there’s nothing like some hand-knitted paw-covers to cheer her day.  So when I found a lovely pattern called Cathy Rose Mitts from Sandra Paul  (she features them on her blog here)  I felt sure Rosie would appreciate discovering them under the tree this Christmas.

They don’t take much yarn, so I uncovered some I had leftover  from an earlier project, and set to work.  It’s a great little pattern and I was delighted with the results.  So delighted in fact, that I kept them on the chest in my bedroom where I could gaze at them in satisfaction.  But, as my mum always used to say, “Pride goes before a fall.”  And because I was proud of my work and enjoyed looking at them – I forgot to hide them before Rosie came to stay.  She spotted them and loved them too!

Rosie Paws

Put them on …. and took them away with her!  So now I am back to the beginning again.  I have another idea for Miss Rosie, but this time I’m keeping my work well under wraps.  Rosie is a major snaffler of my work and on her last visit as well as these little mittens, my Baby Owls Draught Excluder found its way into her car and home to Bristol with her…. 

Owls Draught Excluder

 But she won’t be allowed to snaffle my latest pattern for the Bustle & Sew Magazine – my Sparkle Reindeer!

Sparkle Reindeer

 Some easy applique, vintage buttons and LED battery-operated Christmas lights – cool to the touch and with the bulbs poked through holes in the fabric/board – these really are sparkle reindeer!

Sparkle Reindeer

 It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas here at Coombe Leigh – and the December Magazine is shaping up to be a very festive issue indeed! 

Sparkle Reindeer


Summer rushes towards autumn

by Helen on August 10, 2013

Summer is now at its height and our roads are packed with caravans, coaches and – on Sundays mostly – touring cyclists.  There’s a real feeling now of carpe diem – everyone is definitely seizing the day – as summer rushes towards autumn – knowing that just a few short weeks of the holiday season now remain.  The first blackberries are appearing in the hedgerows and apples are beginning to ripen fast in the warm sunshine, whilst the buddleia in my garden is a magnet for butterflies who adore its sweet fragrance and nectar, drinking their fill then basking on the blooms …. 


 Here’s a Red Admiral and Jersey Tiger – we have Peacocks and Fritillaries too, as well as the ubiquitous Cabbage White in spite of my neighbour Julie waging warfare on its caterpillars earlier in the year!  And there’s a feeling of change in my sewing too – I’m not yet ready to put away my summer fabrics and reclaim my velvets, tweeds and woollens, but I have introduced a more vibrant, stronger palette into my designs, as well as a folk art and woodland feel for September.  So, as well as the Toadstool Pin Cushions I showed you last week … 

Toadstool Pin Cushions

There will be baby owls in the September issue of the Bustle & Sew Magazine – all lined up and ready to keep chilly draughts from your door.  From left to right there’s Winken, Blinken, Nod, Laisy and Daisy(!) ….

Owls Draught Excluder

 And a Russian Doll applique cushion cover that I’m currently working on ….

Russian Dolls wip

Thank you as well to all the magazine subscribers who have returned their readers’ survey – there’s still time to do so if you haven’t already.  I’d really like to know what everyone thinks of the magazine as I’m always trying to make it a better experience and want it to be much more than just a collection of patterns – though they are of course the major part of the magazine and will remain so.  One great suggestion has been to move all the templates to the back so that you don’t need to print them all if you’re not planning to make any particular project – and I’m planning to put that suggestion into practice in the very next issue.  

Wedding preparations are also a major activity here at Coombe Leigh (more about those another time!) so I’ll leave you with a lovely painting from Jacqui – of how Rosie and her bridesmaids might look next year…..

Rosie & her bridesmaids


Jacqui’s now taking commissions for original artwork (can be personalised too if you wish), so if you’d like learn more, then just pop over to her Facebook page and leave her a message.  


It’s funny, but it somehow feels right to start thinking about Christmas designs this month.  I think it’s because all around us here in Devon there are signs that the year is turning, as the seasons change and summer merges into autumn.  I am surrounded by colour – there are apples on the old trees in my garden ….


The sedums in my front borders are alive with bees collecting the last of the summer pollen ….


And I counted more than a dozen tortoiseshell butterflies enjoying the valerian’s second flowering on the old stone wall ….

Tortoiseshell Butterfly

The wheat has all been harvested in the fields towards Stokenham village, though you can still clearly see the footpath through the stubble..

Crossing the Field

The evenings are drawing in too, it’s dark by eight o’clock now … which means there is more time to snuggle down on the sofa and enjoy  browsing through the assortment of books, magazines and other miscellaneous reading matter that collected over the summer months when I wanted to be outside in the garden, on the beach, or taking Ben for an evening walk.  And amongst the eclectic mixture I discovered an old embroidery book that I acquired at one of the many fetes and jumble sales held around our local villages…

xmas owls 025

It’s very much of its time – the early 1970s – and is aimed at encouraging children to pick up needle & thread and get stitching.  (I’m all for that!)  I love vintage books like this – not only do they remind me of my own childhood, they also provide a starting point to inspire  new designs.  I particularly liked this idea …..

xmas owls 027

… the little owls perched on a tree.  And doesn’t the tree look a little bit like a Christmas tree perhaps?  And before Christmas comes Advent – Advent Calendar – owls – stockings …. and so an idea was born – the first of my Christmas designs for this year …

Baby Owls Advent Calendar

… my Baby Owls Advent Calendar.  You can see how the 1970s pattern was my starting point – I began with the Christmassy shape of the tree, but both it and my baby owls are appliqued by machine – the little owls have buttons for eyes, hand-stitched feet, and the panel is lightly quilted…

Baby Owls Advent Calendar (detail)

The stockings are also machine applique and pegged to the baker’s twine that’s secured across the branches – one stocking for each day in December leading up to Christmas.   The panel is about 18″ wide, though I haven’t measured it properly yet, as I haven’t started to write up the pattern.  These baby owls will be in the October Issue of the Bustle & Sew e-zine – published in a little over two weeks’ time and I’ll list the pattern in my shop then.  Meanwhile …

NM5 pic for blogs etc

I’m off to the Nostalgic Mix Fair in Totnes in October.  This  is where I sell many of my samples.  I do try to be ruthless, as otherwise I would have far too many cushions, quilts, pictures and softies, but somehow I think these baby owls will be staying with me this Christmas time – too cute to sell!!   Hope to see one or two blog readers there – if you can make it do be sure to come and say “Hello.”