Friday 30 September 2016

Paris - food, drink and flowers

Aubergines - not sure I've seen white ones before.
A constant mist of water over the bunches of herbs to keep them in peak condition
The pretty flower shop near the hotel
Perfect pink roses
Desserts in well-designed boxes
Chocolate anyone?
 Not far from the hotel New Orient where we stayed was a greengrocers with the most perfect fruit and vegetables. I think Parisian housewives demand (and expect) perfection in a way that we British do not.( Years ago I witnessed the shouting outrage of one French woman complaining when she saw something that was not quite perfect.)

In this greengrocers the fruit and vegetables were at their very best. We got a mango, an avocado, two perfect peaches, big, juicy tomatoes and a purple lettuce. Then round the corner for a hunk of cheese from the cheese shop and a baguette at another shop. A wonderful picnic.

That first day we had a drink and a croissant for breakfast at a patisserie on high bar stools. On day two (Monday) the patisseries were closed and we had a 'petit dejeuner' at Bar Dome which consisted of freshly squeezed orange juice, coffee and croissant for 7 euros. Considering we'd been paying 4.50 euros for just a cup of tea elsewhere this seemed like good value.

We noticed that you could have a hot drink/ glass of wine or soft drink all for the same price - 5 euros at some places. At our rate of exchange the pound was almost the same value as the euro so next time - a thermos!

We were surprised that our rooms at the hotel didn't have drink making facilities. French people obviously don't crave a cup of tea on waking the way we British do! I would recommend the New Orient Hotel in rue du Constantinople - just take a travel kettle with you and a plug adaptor.

Thursday 29 September 2016

Paris visit - Day Two

 Beautiful ceiling in the Laduree tea room
An unexpected bear

Can you believe it? This shop just sells meringues.
Printed satins
I really like these...
...and this one! All in Tissus Reine
Monday - first stop Monoprix which has good value stylish baby clothes. Then the metro to Barbes-Rochouart for the rue d'Orsel. I cannot recommend this road too highly. If you like fabric you will LOVE the rue d'Orsel in Montmartre.

Shop after shop of keenly priced fabrics. Some had a speciality for example leathers, suedes and furs - faux and real -in one of the first shops we went in. I would never eat meat but I did like seeing the myriad of colours you can buy pieces of leather in - from palest pink, turquoise, purple. And the faux fur throws - tiger, chinchilla rabbit were impressive if you like that sort of thing.

Another shop seemed to specialise in fabrics for 'Strictly Come Dancing' and fancy dress.

We bought a piece of beautiful lime velvet to halve, Pam found great shot cottons for her quilts and I got a piece of navy dotted white cotton jersey for baby clothes in the more general fabric stores.

My favourite shop is Tissus Reine - also the most expensive one we found. I loved the pictured printed satins. They also had a very good range of Liberty fabrics (but not cut price.)
After a quick cup of tea at the Librairie at the top of the road (which also houses a Museum of Naif Art) we were on the metro again to Les Halles.

For so long La Droguerie has been my favourite shop. It's in rue du Jour. I loved it when living in Paris decades ago and it hasn't changed. If you love habadashery - buttons, ribbons, yarns etc or beads you will love this shop. But there is a drawback. You have to wait to be served and we nearly gave up waiting and left with nothing. It is not self service and it would be much better if it were. Because you have to wait for an assistant to get you what you want to buy you queue. Too few assistants for too many would-be buyers.
I still recommend a visit - even if it's just to look and not buy.

Tomorrow more pictures of Paris. I can't wait to go back now!

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Paris visit- day One

The knitting shop/cafe we visited in the morning
Inside L'Oisive The
Burberry fashion on the rue de Faubourg St Honore
Alberta Ferretti's amazing clothes
Stunning dress by Alberta Ferretti
 A friend and I went to Paris on Saturday night and returned on Monday night. It was BRILLIANT !! 
On Sunday morning we visited L'Oisive The (metro Place d'Italie) a knitting shop cum cafe I'd read about online. There we found beautiful dyed yarns by Madeline Tosh and other American yarns. My friend, Pam, was very tempted to buy two MT skeins but at 25 euros each ( and a euro is roughly the same as a pound currently) they were too expensive. 

I wanted to find a French knitting book as many years ago I loved the Phildar/Pinguoin knitting patterns for babies and children. I found one but it was not for sale apparently. 

This shop had many books that were not for sale and the ones that were for sale tended to be English and American books. Also most thing we picked up were not priced and the staff were busy serving tea and food so it felt like we were interrupting to ask wool prices. But worth the visit for the inspiration the beautifully dyed yarns offered.

We headed for Galeries Lafayette and found it closed but the fact that most places are closed on a Sunday worked to our advantage as we walked down the Rue de Faubourg St Honore where the designers have their shops as we were able to take as many photos as we liked!

We noticed certain fashion themes - small boxy handbags; ornate guardsman inspired jackets and dresses with gold frogging,braid and gold appliques - a Michael Jackson look for women... The most appealing windows to us were those of Alberta Ferretti. Pretty, softly coloured feminine clothes, beautifully made.

There was a heavy police presence on Sunday. Traffic was being prevented from going near the Champs Elysee. We had our bags inspected more than once and were glad of it.  In the crowded Champs Elysee the people took over that wide road and we enjoyed watching street dancers trying to teach tiny children their dance moves to the enthusiastic cheers of the audience!

Beautiful big old houses in the rue Rembrant which leads to the Parc Monceau where we took a breather before returning to the hotel for a picnic supper of the most perfect fruit, salad and cheese we had bought at the market earlier.

Tuesday 27 September 2016

See Paris - be inspired!

Printed satins in Tissus Reine

Intriguing gold wires and wool in shop window
Alberta Ferretti window in rue du Fauborg St Honore
Flying trip to Paris. Just two days but what a lot we packed in. Walked our feet off and saw so much beauty. More tomorrow and more photos too.

Thursday 22 September 2016

Better Marbling!

Today I did some better marbling. Using the technique I learnt late yesterday ie. to stir the water before adding the ink, I came up with some examples that looked more like marbling than my attempts yesterday (see previous post.)

I also used a pile of brown paper bags someone gave me for today's effort. Yesterday I was using ordinary A4 copy paper. And if I've got the patience to marble the backs of all these brown paper bags after waiting for the fronts to thoroughly dry they will make lovely gift wrappings.

In case you are wondering, I'm an early riser and blog/ write emails/ do craft activities before walking to work. A lark, not an owl.

Also today Kate Box, who knits the popular striped, bobbled and generally gorgeous hand warmers, cowls and blankets for the shop wrote about Handmade Happiness on her blog today. She's put up lots of pictures of inside the shop too. See it on

Wednesday 21 September 2016

Easy Marbling

Stir the water before adding marbling ink to create a swirl pattern.

These pieces of paper are not as impressive as I'd like. No end papers of antique books commissions for me! But they are good enough for gift wrapping and collage and they were certainly quick and easy to do.

I bought some marbling inks called 'Easy marble' by Marabu. You put some water into a washing up bowl drip some ink into the water and lay a piece of white A4 copy paper on top of the water and peel it off and lay it out to dry. That's it. The inks form a sort of plastic film on the water which is transferred onto your paper.  I added ordinary coloured inks. They just sank to the bottom and didn't transfer to the paper.

My only problem with these Marabu inks is that you can't manipulate them ie. drag a comb across or make patterns with a toothpick. As soon as you start to do this the colour 'film' clumps and sticks together. But after some experimenting I found if I swirled the water before adding the inks i got more of a pattern (top picture.)

I've added a bit of gold to each piece of marbling now and they look more expensive. I found that if I used several different inks the results weren't as good as only using two coloured inks. I wonder if those brown papier mache boxes will take the colour like paper does? I'll let you know. Brown paper would be worth a try too. 

A quick word of warning - don't use your only washing up bowl as I did. The ink colours won't come off...

Monday 19 September 2016

Gold Letters

A wedding card made by me, Jenny Stacy with gold letters
Gold glitter letters - 10 sheets per pack - for sale in Handmade Happiness
Liberty print letters - now sold out 
Gold glitter letters spelling out 'Congratulations' for sale in Handmade Happiness
I do like a bit of gold. I use it as a highlight in collage, and these gold letters are great for gift wrapping. Even plain tissue paper can be made to look very luxurious with the person's name spelt out in gold glitter letters on the gift. And the simple handmade card would look quite ordinary without the gold lettering on it.

Gold is also one of the colours of autumn. Golden leaves and Virginia creeper reds, browns and orange. It feels like we've missed out on autumn this year with record high temperatures to mid September. My plans are all about Christmas colours and Christmas decorating right now.

After a disastrous attempt at marbling paper this week, using very old inks that had nearly dried up, I am still seeking marbled paper with gold streaks in it. That would be fabulous for Christmas gift wrapping both in the shop and at home.

Thursday 15 September 2016

New - Jewellery and Dragonflies

Sparkly jewellery made by Annie Sherburne
A closer view of Annie Sherburne's jewellery
One of Annie's bee brooches against velvet
Dragonflies waiting to be sewn in the shop by Jenny Stacy
A flying dragonfly by Jenny Stacy
And dragonfly carrying a fairy made by Jenny Stacy
As promised here are pictures of Annie Sherburne's sparkly jewellery that I found at Top Drawer. Some of you might recognise her name because of the colourful rugs she is known for. I am very pleased to have her jewellery in the shop and hope to get more of it soon.

Also pictured are the dragonflies I'm making.  There are 11 now flying in the shop. I thought it would be fun if each of them has a fairy on its back but I am going to have to make some more, smaller fairies. This fairy, which is the smallest one I could find, still looks too heavy for the delicate insect!

Wednesday 14 September 2016

Top Drawer

This must be one of the prettiest
shop fronts. Peggy Porschen's in
There is some new colourful jewellery in Handmade Happiness. It is designed and handmade in London and I love it.

I found it at Top Drawer.
I don't usually visit this trade fair. I like Handmade Happiness to represent the work of local artists but after nearly five years of trading locally I wanted to see if I could get a feel for future trends and maybe find some makers from a bit further afield.

I came away from Top Drawer inspired. In the handmade section I found beautiful painterly velvet cushions, the softest made-in-Devon fake fur throws and some experimentally glazed pottery that I really liked. 

More on those things later and a picture of the jewellery. Right now I am cutting up painted silk and wiring up old beads to make dragonflies. I fancy having flying dragonflies with tiny fairies on their backs flying across the shop window. I am also thinking a lot about some Italian marbled gift wrap I bought many years ago with streaks of gold in it. Wonderful for Christmas. I wonder if we can make it?

Friday 9 September 2016

New in Handmade Happiness

Great colours in this neck warmer knitted by Pam Dew
More strong colour in a throw £75 and cushion £44 both made by Pam Dew
Spotted this on the wall of a house in Petersfield yesterday.
Yesterday Pam Dew, who makes quilts and cushions for Handmade Happiness brought in the stunning throw pictured above, and a cushion and neck warmer. Pam's work always adds great colour to the shop.

This year Christmas is going to be all about strong, intense colours.
Today Kate Box brought in three more pairs of her popular, colourful wrist warmers and Sue Inglis re-stocked the wood tree in the centre of the shop with lots more of her knitted creatures. Sue is busy knitting decorations for Christmas which will be in the shop from the beginning of October. I can't wait to see what new ideas she's come up with this  year. Today Katrin Eagle brought in more of her woven buttons and I made needlefelt which will be used by Bee Mellor for new brooches. 

It's feeling a bit cooler and a lot darker and now is the time to make lots of things to squirrel away either to sell or to give away as Christmas presents.

Thursday 8 September 2016


Bright coloured ribbons from 30p a metre to £1 a metre in Handmade Happiness
Sparkly metallic ribbons and script ribbon from 30p a metre to £1 a metre in Handmade Happiness
All the ribbons I ordered for Handmade Happiness
I love ribbons and trims. This lot arrived at the shop yesterday and they are perfect. Just what I wanted. I used to dream of having a habadashery shop but this is enough for now. I'll sell these by the metre and I'll also make with them and use them to gift wrap for customers nearer Christmas.

My mother was good at gift wrapping. Her presents were often almost too nice to open. She had wrapping paper, ribbons and gift tags for all seasons in a big sliding drawer under the bed. She enjoyed taking the trouble to create a memorable looking present. Often gift wrapping is done in a rush at the last minute but this year I want to take time to savour the pleasure of making something look beautiful.

I remember in France a single croissant being put in a white box with a ribbon tied round it. I remember taking dozens of video boxes to Pallant House in Chichester to teach gift wrapping techniques. That was many years ago. Somewhere I've got handouts for 'Glamorous Gift Wrapping' and even 'Glamorous Golden Gift Wrapping'. But for now I am content to use my magazine page bags for customers' purchases. Nearer Christmas I plan plain tissue paper layers with a nicely tied bow using one of the above...