Thank You Teacher!

thank you teacher books

Thank You Teacher Books – oh dear… one is missing!

I was very busy toward the end of last term, making up some notebook covers for Eloise and Louis’ fabulous teachers to say thank you for helping them settle into their new school this year and for being fantastic teachers and really welcoming and generally making our move from the big school in the town to the little school in the village a very happy one.  I am certain now that we did the right thing, the children are thriving and seem really happy, and the more I look at the entry criteria for secondary school – which I am going to have to jump through the hoops of in September, the more I realise that if we had left my daughter where she was, whilst living outside of the town, then she would have been right at the bottom of the pile for school choices. (long story, very boring…won’t go into now…)

So, I wanted to do something a bit special to say thank you to Eloise’s two teachers who job share half a week each, she loves them both and has done so much better this year with them than last year. Their special topic this year was France and Spain. Mrs Murdoch taught them about Spain and Mrs Martin France – so I thought it would be sweet to have them holding the appropriate flag.

Mrs Murdoch's book cover

Mrs Murdoch’s book cover

Mrs Martin's book cover

Mrs Martin’s book cover







Also I wanted to do something special for Louis’ teacher and his teaching assistant, as they are both lovely and he has had a great time with them this year. He adores the teaching assistant Mrs Bradshaw so much and I know she was getting a new puppy on the last day of term so I thought it might be fun to include the puppy on her book cover.

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I feel slightly bad about these ones because Miss Barker’s was the first one I did and Mrs Bradshaw’s ended up being the last one I did. And I learnt a lot along the way and I have to say that Mrs Bradshaw’s is now my favourite! I do hope Miss Barker is not disappointed with her slightly more snug cover and wobbly lettering!

And I wanted to do something nice for the headteacher who did so much to help us get into the school in the first place and also to smooth the transition, and the amazing and wonderful Mrs Erswell who runs the school from the front desk and is the most kind and friendly and welcoming person ever. Such a stark contrast to the fireball you would receive from the dragon at the old school’s front of house if you were so much as 5 mins late… Nothing is too much trouble for Mrs Erswell, everything is laid back and easy and no problem, it is so refreshing!

So I asked the children what words came to mind when they thought about Mrs Erswell and I built them into her book cover.

Mrs Erswell's book cover

Mrs Erswell’s book cover

And for Mrs Stockley the headteacher I made something that included the name of the school. It was going to just say ‘Teamwork’ which Eloise informs me is her favourite word (although she also commented that it probably wasn’t really her favourite word and certainly wouldn’t be if she was not a teacher – after all it is not a patch on my favourite word, which is ‘wobble’) but after I began putting it together I thought it would be fun to have the bunting go right across the back cover as well, and then I noticed that there was just about enough space to fit in the name of the school instead, which might seem a little less random than simply ‘teamwork’.

Mrs Stockley's book cover

Mrs Stockley’s book cover

It does look a little odd falling off the bottom like that I admit and also when you close the book, it looks very random indeed saying E HAM MARY… but hey…


Ok so would you like a little more background on how these lovely covers came about?

Of course you would… well, firstly I have to say another big thank you to Josie Day over at Sew for Soul (again!) for her brilliant book cover tutorial and I have to say that I did terribly plagiarise your teacher sitting at a desk idea Josie – I hope you don’t mind!

I love the way that the inside flaps that hold the notebook in are in such nice contrasting fabrics, they look lovely lined up together too from spine or inside cover side.

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Miss Barker’s apple idea was pretty much my own from a bit of googling and pinteresting, it’s your typical teacher themed motif really isn’t it? Although after doing Miss Barker, Mrs Martin’s and Mrs Murdoch’s, I quickly learned that cutting out the pieces for the lettering and then free machining around the lettering was not really my favourite bit of the process… so I moved away from putting the names on in the others.

Instead I found this lovely tree and flower idea on this gorgeous blog from super cute tilly. Big thank you to Tilly for inspiring me with this, I absolutely loved creating the flowers and the tree for these covers.

I love the horizontal split with the patterned fabric along the bottom, and free machining the flowers and the tree was really fun, especially the tree, as I even did that in one go, and didn’t have to keep knotting off the ends of the thread and moving to a new place to start and then ending up with lots of draping threads to snip at the end. It also meant the back of the tree was as neat at the front, shame no-one will see it!



It was also a lot of fun adding the little dog at the bottom digging for his bone, just to make it a bit more personal. And the little ‘thank you’ ribbon at the back. I love the way the tree just folds slightly over the spine and onto the back cover too.



This was definitely my favourite cover, it was the most fun to make and I think it turned out the best.


Mrs Erswell’s flowers came from Tilly’s website too, and I wasn’t going to attempt the lettering in the stems to begin with as I thought that was a bit outside my skill level at the moment, but then when the children gave me such nice words to describe her, I thought it was such a nice idea that I would have a go, and just go very very slowly with my machine and keep my fingers crossed.

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I also had a bit of a boob-up on this one too, as I picked out a nice bit of linen for the background from my linen scraps box and ironed interlining on the back and then sewed the patterned fabric to what I thought was the front… but it was the interlining side… doh. It was late and the light was not the best… I ummed and ahhhed about it for a day and wondered if it was worth unpicking and putting on the correct side. I had stuck all the flower heads on with bondaweb too… so I would have to peel them off and restick somehow, or cut out more.

I decided in the end the texture of the linen was too good to lose, so I unpicked and unstuck and used my trusty can of 505 sticky stuff to stick the flower heads back down again and all ended up well.

Mrs Stockley’s was very fiddly… I got the idea from something I saw on Pinterest with a bird holding some bunting, although I can’t find that image now. I like adding mini bunting to things with applique and free machining – so it was fun to do, but very fiddly and was time-consuming to embroider the lettering. I was hoping I could get away with empty block letters but sadly for me, they looked much better filled in!

Here it is in progress, from cutting out stage, to ironed on with bondaweb, to stitched before the letters were added.

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My final touch was to get the children to write a note in the front covers saying thank you and how happily they had settled in. I hope they liked them. It was a bit nerve-wracking after all that work sending the children in with them all wrapped in tissue paper on the last day of term. I never saw that they got them ok, but the children assured me that they did. And the brilliant thing about these covers is that you don’t have to keep the notebook for best. It is just a cheapo notebook from the supermarket, you can remove the jacket and put it on a new one when you fill up the first one with cunning plans and fantastic notes.

Hopefully they will last that long…


Happy Christening to you…


Hello once again my lovely readers,  here I am back in the driving seat of my own blog again, and back with some more sewing goodies.

Our very good friends were having a double christening last month for their daughter Florence and their son Berkley. So of course I immediately thought – what a good excuse for some more sewing loveliness. Or some more sewing practice anyway!

I first thought it would be nice to sew them each a small quilt. But A) I have never sewn a quilt before and it looks a little bit complicated… and B) by the time I had stopped faffing about sketching ideas and thinking what to do, I only had 2 weeks to make both of them… and C) I didn’t have enough fabric kicking about and going to buy more would seriously cut into the time I had free to get started… so… I decided to do some nice patchwork/applique framed pictures.

Idea number one came from a thank you card I had seen a while back with cute animal heads poking into each of the letters of the word thank you.

So, one sunny afternoon,  I begun sketching and scribbling…



I decided to use the back of the paper insert from the photo frame for my pattern sketch so I could ensure the finished article would fit in the frame. Then I began cutting and sticking and sewing…


Then I backed each piece of patchwork with tear n stitch and set to with free machine embroidery to sew the letters. Then I cut out each animal shape in fabric backed with bondaweb and stuck them down ready to machine embroider. It was a beautiful day, far too nice to spend cooped up indoors sewing, so I took my machine outside, extension lead through the kitchen window and sewed them up on the table outside in the sunshine… I’ve never thought to do that before, it was a very pleasant way to spend a day I can tell you, and the wind only blew everything away sending me chasing giraffes and bears and penguins around the garden once or twice!



Once I had finished them all they looked like this, now I just had to sew them together and pop them in a frame.


Ta Da! Except not entirely ta da… as by the time I sewed them together, somehow my calculations with seam allowances had gone a bit awry and it was too big for the frame… doh! Not to worry, I had another bigger frame in a cupboard luckily for me, and so used this instead. But I had to then add a border to the patchwork pieces, which was not really in my plan, and I had no idea how to do it neatly… so here it is sort of bodged and not done very neatly… but hey, now it fits the frame and you will be SO dazzled by the beauty of the embroidery that you will barely notice the wonky border now will you?

So then, onto Berkley’s picture and for this I decided to do something a little different. My friend is a big fan of wildlife and safari animals in particular, and I know that mum’s favourite animal is a hippo, so I thought I would adapt a pattern I found for a safari quilt down to picture size.

And without any more back up frames to hand, it had to fit the frame this time! So I thought, rather than doing each square individually then sewing together, I would sew all the squares together first, make sure they fit, THEN add the applique… bit more risky as then if the embroidery part goes wrong then I have messed up the whole thing, not just one square but hey… what could go wrong?

So I cut out and sewed together the background pieces, including a border, then cut out the applique pieces…

cut up applique pieces

much mess and tiny bits of bondaweb and fabric later…

Then I lined them up ready to embroider on…


Then it was time to pop on my brand new shiny free machine embroidery foot and off I go…


The new foot is fab, rather than having to drop the feed dogs, this foot sort of jumps up and down and allows you to move the fabric wherever you like when it jumps up and releases it. And also it makes you feel like you are less likely to accidentally stab your finger with the needle than when I just used the machine footless as for Florence’s picture. It took a bit of getting used to using the new foot, but now I love it. Just a shame it is not a clip on foot and I have to rummage in my sewing machine box of bits for my Janome wee screwdriver each time I need to put it on or take it off.


And finito…

With a couple of days to spare I had them both finished and ready for the big day:


I hope they will look on them often and know I am thinking of them as they grow up. I certainly had a lot of fun making them! Maybe one day I will get around to making some matching quilts!

One fish, two fish, dig a hole, make a waterfall…

Introducing my first ***GUEST BLOGGER*** whoo hoo – big fanfare… ok, it’s just my hubby – Will… but over to you guest blogger to tell us How hard can it be to create a bigger fish pond with waterfall effect?

The Brief

Anne says – “Darling” *****(uh oh thinks Will, whats in store here)*** “our poor fish. Their pond is just too small and in our garden its a pointless sized pond anyway.”

Anne of course is correct. It is a crappy sized pond and it is definitely leaking. In Anne’s head this is simple to rectify – just double its size at least and create a waterfall. But for me I can see immediately that a) we don’t have the money spare to get some people in (darn it) and therefore b) this is gonna be hard graft particularly because I am a desk jockey by day. Still, might be an opportunity to get a little bit fitter? Lets do it says I (I almost always do – I love her you see), I mean how hard can it be?

The original pond (without the plants its not that small surely?)

The original pond (without the plants its not that small surely?)

Day One 

Go to the fish shop and get some stuff; that feels like a good start. And in fact we discovered a lovely place – Langley’s Aquatics which was just really pleasant to wander around with all their fish ponds and wooded area and stuff and was worth it just for a chilled out place to go (near Hatfield Heath if you interested) – oh shit, am I seriously writing a blog and admitting I enjoy pleasant strolls looking at fish; I guess this is official middle age then (dare I admit I really enjoy going to bed a little early so I can read my book? Ah, whatever – I am good with all this!) So, anyway the chap at Langley’s knew what he was talking about and pointed out that just because we were keen to crack on we really couldn’t buy a pump and filter just now because we didn’t have a pond yet so had no clue what volume of water we need to clean and move – doh! But we got some liner stuff and went for a nice picnic, and that was all good and felt like enough for one days fish ponding work to me. Job well done!

Day Two

Last night we filled up a cheap, sea-side themed (seemed appropriate) paddling pool with water.

The crab temporary decant space

The crab temporary decant space

Looking online and apparently we should have done that a week ago to let the water, errrr… do something. Balls to that, I have the day off work for this, the fish are getting decanted for a bit. Which was all quite a bit of fun actually…

The girls catch the fish

The girls catch the fish

Louis doesn't want to miss any of the action so joins in with his toast

Louis doesn’t want to miss any of the action so joins in with his toast

So, the fish are moved out, the children are off to school. Turns out its blinking hard getting the water out bucket full by bucket full; oh dear, there is a long way to go! In the end I smashed my mattock through the bottom and that got the water out pretty quick. Smart thinking!

Anne returns and (after a well deserved cup of tea) we set to work again. She asks what she can do, so I suggest could she cut back some foliage so it’s not in the way. And do you know what she manages to do – she bashes her head with the long handled sheers hard enough to see stars and go all dizzy. So she goes to get some frozen peas to put on the rapidly growing egg and walks smack into the porch! Obviously this requires a bit of TLC and a sit down and I think my wife actually properly went hysterical because once she stopped boo’ing she totally got the giggles, bless. But seriously we got work to do here!

Anne feels sorry for herself

Anne feels sorry for herself

So accelerating through the day. I basically dug a sodding a great big hole and bunged it all into a pile. We happen to have loads of rocks kicking about our garden so you know what, although it hurt me and I actually sweated rather a lot, which was a novel experience, I made a hole and a great big mound. So, physically this part was blooming difficult. But on the other hand I did it, single handed (well with Anne who did eventually manage to cease giggling and get off the lounger and she truly did help and shifted loads of rocks to the pile). So I would say that to get to this stage, between us, the answer to How hard can it be? is that it was hard graft but we did it and we did it in a few hours and now that I am sat here, two days later with a glass of wine and the memory of some aches and pains, I don’t really know why I am complaining.


Mattocks are really brilliant tools

Put your back  into it

Put your back into it

Next task was easy. Line it with felt type stuff (carpet would do) and then on top of that put in the pond liner. Both relatively simple. We mounded up rocks to make a sort of stream and waterfall and lined that too and felt pretty proud of our effort really.

Thats going to be a great waterfall

That’s going to be a great waterfall

We did cock it up by leaving that liner underneath the main pond liner, but happily I realised that mistake fairly early – otherwise we would have emptied the pond pretty swiftly.

From this stage we just built it up and built it up. The nightmare thing was cementing stones in. I bought quick setting cement because it sounded simple; just add 2.4 litres of water into the tub and mix it is what the instructions said and away you go. What I did not realise was that you cannot just stir it together with a stick like you do paint and when it says quick dry it bloody means it. I now have to go to the dump because I have two tubs half full of solid cement to get rid off – oops! But great opportunity as this meant I absolutely had to visit Homebase to get one of those stirrer things that attaches to my drill; was pretty messy using it and I certainly splatted a lot of concrete about but I did mix it up and now I have a new drill bit to be proud of! So we stuck stuff down; not brilliantly well I admit and I definitely would not walk round the pond on the stones unless I wanted to fall in.

Concrete this stuff down

Concrete this stuff down

From here, we filled it with water, visited the shop again to get a pump, a heron scarer thing (not convinced it works yet), a couple of plants and we also agreed to foster a couple of golden Koi for a year or two; after which they will be too big for our pond apparently but Langley’s man said we can swap them for smaller ones again when the time comes. The costs are starting to mount up though! Just as well we are DIY’ing this bad boy.

The scary moment of course was turning on the pump. The electrics were easy enough as power is already out there – just like changing a socket really. So we switch it on and hey presto! The water ran down our waterfall and it appeared to flow back into the pond. Success! Fish back in – and weird as this may sound, but they really seem to love it. We have never seen them swim about so joyously before and they are really flinging themselves about. Eloise said this morning that she saw our original 4 fish doing the Conga this morning and then they gave Bumpkin (my fish) the bumps throwing him up in the air out of the pond… this, I would love to have seen… or does my daughter just have a great imagination? Oh it makes it all worthwhile though to see those happy smiling gills!

We have done it! Right? Not sure what Eloise is measuring though!

We have done it! Right? Not sure what Eloise is measuring though!

Day Three

in pj's looking at fish pond

In PJ’s just out of bed, checking on the fish…

Shit. About a third of the water has gone already. Uh oh. Long story short, after much angst about having stood in the new pond in my boots, probably with stones on the soles, I figured out that the sides of the liner down the waterfall just do not stick up very much. So lots of faffing about and absolutely every muscle in me is hurting so everything takes five times longer. But we built it up again and moved rocks and used mastic and basically bodged it the best we could. Anne made another Homebase trip and bought a bunch of pebbles and we smashed up some slate roof tiles and in the end, we think (hope to goodness) that we now have a new, double sized waterfall injected fish pond. And best bonus is the fish do genuinely seem to love it too. The only other thing was, Anne also said “Darling ***(oh crap)****” and yes, I did also remodel the lawn so that she can have her egg chair in the right place.

The finished article

The finished article

Overall assessment – if I can do it (with an occasionally hysterical wife as a team mate) anyone can. It may have hurt doing physical work but wine takes good care of that issue and it was definitely worth every minute. How hard can it be. That would be a Chardonnay induced EASY!

Furniture Restoration Update – and your help needed!

Hello my lovelies – I thought I would share with you an update on my furniture restoration adventures.

Sadly my 10 week class is over now, (sob!) so no longer on a Wednesday night do I go skipping off into London as all the tired good working folk are coming out of London and spend a happy 3 hours chiselling and hammering and glueing. *wistful sigh*

But – I must share with you the latest news on the door I have made for my Japanese parquetry cabinet.

If you have been reading this blog for a few weeks you may remember my post about starting my furniture class and the project’s I was undertaking.

japanese parquetry cabinet

Japanese Parquetry Cabinet – with door missing.

As you can see, this cabinet was in a bit of a pickle. The door was missing from the right hand side, and the bottom drawer was both missing a handle and stuck so it wouldn’t open. The pretty metal corner was missing but hiding inside one of the drawers, and a back panel had fallen off along the bottom.

It comes apart in two pieces so I took the right hand side to class and cleaned it up. My tutor Shaun, helped me free the sticky drawer and plane and sand it down to fit – he also helped me make a new handle. It was hugely exciting opening the drawer that had been stuck for goodness knows how many hundreds of years…maybe there would be some interesting papers inside, or some bank notes… or pieces of Japanese gold wrapped delicately in a goat’s bladder?

Well no… it was empty. But it did have something written on the bottom. A treasure map? The signature of a hugely famous historical figure?

Well not quite… but it did say this:

bottom of stuck drawer

Any suggestions what this says?

British Red Cross – and then something I am not too sure what it says? Any suggestions? Something Oaks? And 1942.

I wonder why someone wrote that on the bottom of the drawer? I wonder what the red cross used it for? Interesting…

my other little box

Look at the work on those doors! Click for larger view.

Anyway – back to the door… the biggest problem was the missing door. How were we going to fashion a new door? Now if you remember I had a smaller similar Japanese cabinet too which had two lovely doors on it so I had an idea of what kinda thing we were looking at. Shaun had a cunning plan to use some wood and blacken it with blackboard paint and look up some authentic pictures to paint on them from Stalker & Parker. Which I must say I was well up for and quite looking forward to a bit of painting with some gold paint.

However, back in the real world I accepted that anything I painted was not really going to look very authentic, and while researching pictures to copy I stumbled upon two lacquered framed pictures for sale on eBay for about £20 one of which weirdly was almost exactly the right size and shape that I needed for my door.


What a find!

I ran the idea past Shaun at my next class and he said go for it! And seemed very pleased with the idea, so go for it I did. And took one in the following week and we lovingly made a frame for it out of pine, and routed out a groove all the way around the edge to insert the picture, and then I glued it and spent an age sanding and planeing (is that a word?) it down to exactly the right size and shape to fit the cabinet and painted it with several coats of black shellac and sanded it down with very very fine paper and et volia, bob is your uncle:

finished box with new door

Pretty good huh?

Well ok… perhaps it didn’t happen quite that easy… you see the big trouble was the hinges. After I had spent a very nerve wracking hour one Wednesday night carefully chiselling out a groove in my nice new frame to drop the hinges into, and then carefully marking out the holes and clipping down the size of tiny screws so that they wouldn’t poke through the very thin wooden edges and screwing them in lovingly… I then hit upon a snag… if we were going to hide the hinges inside the box so that only the knuckle was showing and I countersunk the hinges into the door (all as instructed by Shaun who I trust implicitly!) Well then we are going to have a problem aren’t we?

hinge problem

Almost perfect door

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Can anybody see what the problem is yet?

Yes that’s right… the drawers aren’t going to open are they?

How gutted was I – when, having got to this stage and called out ‘Shaun Shaun… please come help I think we have a problem here…’ Shaun comes over and agrees that this is indeed a bit of a problem and say’s don’t worry – just fill in those grooves (that it took me a hour to lovingly chisel and put screw holes in…) and we’ll think of something else.

So… some wood filler, some shellac painting and some searching google for hinges later… I am still not entirely finished. We agreed that the best solution was to put the hinges on the outside so the door swings out clear of the drawers – which we ought to have realised in the first place as this is where the holes are from the original hinges… doh!

I have searched high and low for some proper authentic looking japanese cabinet hinges that are very small, as the width of the frame is less than an inch. I was hoping to find some like I have on my other mini cabinet above but it seems that nice brass decorative hinges are hard to come by. If you ever see any – let me know!

So I bought a couple of options neither of which I am in love with, but either would do the job. Problem I have now is terrible indecision about which one to use. This is where you lovely people come in. Have a look at the picture below and let me know in the comments box below which hinge you think I should use? The top one or the bottom one?


decisions decisions…

Then I can screw them on and will be all finished. Then I just need to find a useful purpose for it in the house, or find a sneaky hidey hole for it where my husband never goes so that he doesn’t realise I have not sold it as was the original plan. I’ve become quite attached to the old fella now. (and the cabinet – ho ho…)