Sunday, 27 February 2011

Back at home


I didn't want to pencil in a meeting for potential burglars by letting you know that I was going away, but beforehand I was so excited about the holiday that we've just returned from that I very nearly had to sellotape my fingers together to stop myself from typing about it. Last Autumn my mother-in-law invited us to go with her to Sweden and we've been looking forward to it ever since. However, like our summer holiday that had to be cancelled when one of our lovelies became ill, this one also nearly didn't happen and we only decided that we could definitely go about 24 hours before we were due to leave - which turned out to be a jolly good decision. Our destination was the far north of Sweden, in search of the Northern Lights and our first stop was at the Ice Hotel in the tiny village of Jukkasjärvi. I'll share my photos of the actual hotel in the next post, as it was too stunning to try and squash it all into one post, so for now I'll just tell you what we got up to during our stay there.


The temperature was thrillingly extreme and reached -40 Celsius during our time there. On our first morning there it was so cold that within just a few minutes eyelashes were frozen, any exposed hair turned white, each hair coated with frost (I now know what I will look like when I'm grey and will be investigating chemical-free hair dying options in preparation for it) and if you happened to stick your tongue out for too long that too freezes. A balaclava was almost essential, along with as many layers and coats as one could fit beneath the full body suits provided by the Ice Hotel.


I photographed these sledges pulled by husky dogs when we were out walking on the River Torne one day, but our own husky dog expedition took place after nightfall. They raced us across the open river for several miles, where the open landscape allowed the wind to whip through our clothing and bite at our bones, before bringing us to a stop in the shelter of the forest. Here, a fire was lit and we drank warm lingonberry juice and ate Swedish pastries.

 We'd stopped at this point...at no point did I drive one-handed.
Another evening, just before sunset, we set out on snowmobiles. When our instructor was showing us the controls on these beasts I stood (with his warning that accidents and frostbite were common ringing in my ears) listening with almost certainty that I felt too fearful to attempt driving one of these, particularly with one of my lovely children clinging to my waist as I took my first lurches into snowmobiling. It was only the knowledge that I would always regret having passed up the opportunity that prompted me into pressing the accelerator and following the others out onto the lake. Having gathered confidence over the expanse of the frozen river, when night had fallen we headed onto the narrow forest paths and into the wilderness. This was a trip mingled with terror and exhilaration in equal parts. With the added windchill, frostbite is common and after 1.5 hours of driving both children were crying and our instructor made the decision that we needed to get them back to warmth as quickly as possible using a shortcut which necessitated going off the main forest tracks. With twisting paths, and each snowmobile following the last at twenty metres apart, it wasn't hard to lose the others and suddenly the line of taillights which we followed disappeared, and the last four snowmobiles in the line were left completely alone, not knowing which way to go when the path divided. We turned off our engines and waited in darkness while the children howled, and inwardly I did the same. It was probably less than ten minutes before the instructor must have noticed that he had less people following and came back to find us, but it was ten minutes in which I wondered how long my children might have before their frozen fingers would necessitate amputation (we lucky snowmobile drivers had heated handlebars...the passengers did not). At the time it was terrifying, but with the hindsight of knowing that my children's fingers are fully functional and intact, I'd leap right in and do it all over again: the sunset; the views; the extreme temperatures; a Narnia-esque world flashing to life in the light of my headlamp; the roar of my own snowmobile blocking out any other sound; the thrill of doing something that I found so terrifying, was too good to miss. And once their hands were warmed our children's memories of it are all good too. The next day my upper arms were more than a little achy...snowmobiles do not seem to come with Power Steering.

Mr Teacakes & the small ones

But our holiday wasn't entirely adventure-based. We had time for long walks on the river.


To plod through the snow making shapes.


And to admire the sculptures that had been made in the ice sculpting sessions.


The sight of coming around a corner to see these sculptures twinkling in the sun was breathtaking.


The memories that I will take away from this holiday feel too numerous to properly organise in my head and I have scrolled through the photographs on my camera repeatedly, trying to neaten them in my mind and sort them in some way so that none of them might be forgotten. I'd love to show you the actual Ice Hotel in the next post...and then perhaps some photos that I took at Abisko when we travelled even further north in search of the northern lights.

I hope you had a lovely half-term too,
Florence x

Monday, 21 February 2011

Threads of feeling

Photograph by The Foundling Museum

The Threads of Feeling exhibition has been running at the Foundling Museum since October and is soon to close on March 6th. The exhibition shows the pieces of fabric that mothers gave along with each baby who was left at the Foundling Hospital between 1741 and 1760. The purpose of the hospital retaining the fabric was originally intended to mean that should a mother be in a position to reclaim her baby she would be able to prove their bond by arriving with a matching swatch of fabric. I also imagine though, that leaving a little of their own identity served to help mothers feel that they were leaving their baby with some care; that a fragment of herself travelled on with the child (if the child arrived without a token from the mother, then a small fabric swatch was instead cut from the child's own clothing).

Photograph by The Foundling Museum

Over 250 years later, the hospital's collection is now being shared with the public and the fabrics are of interest on many levels (although I have to confess that my own interest in them is almost entirely sentimental):

"The textiles are both beautiful and poignant, embedded in a rich social history. Each swatch reflects the life of a single infant child. But the textiles also tell us about the clothes their mothers wore, because baby clothes were usually made up from worn-out adult clothing. The fabrics reveal how working women struggled to be fashionable in the 18th Century." - The Foundling Museum Website.

Photograph by The Foundling Museum

I have been planning to visit the exhibition with my mother since she tore out a newspaper article about it several months ago but, upsettingly, the weekend has never materialised when it felt right to leave my family and disappear to London for a day (they have been surprisingly high maintenance these last few months!). I still have high hopes for the final week that it runs following half-term, and will be planning a break-away around even a glimmer of opportunity. However, I feel so certain that this exhibition will be utterly wonderful (possibly in a tear-stained way that may require the taking along of hankies), that I wanted to post about it in case anyone near London has missed the press about it and might like to go along themselves. You can find the details here. For those who, like me, find themselves unable to go or are far away from London, then you can view the online exhibition (although unfortunately this has only made me more desperate to go along in person and I imagine that the watching of it could result in overnight train journeys and long-haul flights being undertaken. Don't say that I didn't warn you).

Wishing you a lovely half-term week,
Florence x

Friday, 18 February 2011

Fabric-related balance


Recently my mother told me something that my sister had told her about yoga and balance. So this post comes to you possibly distorted by chinese whispers, but even with the distortion, it makes sense to me.

Apparently, the reason why balance, and specifically learning to balance while standing on only one leg, is so important in yoga is because it teaches you the inner strength to remain balanced even when life itself leaves you (metaphorically) standing on only one leg. I don't practice yoga, but since my mother told me about this I have been practicing standing on one leg. When my husband walked into the room and saw me making like a stork yesterday he asked what on earth I was doing. I explained the theory to him and now he's begun practising balancing on one leg too. When you're unsure what life may throw at you, the ability to stand one leg seems to be a good skill to be practised in.


Yes, it's disturbing to have to try and master inner balance on a maroon carpet, but I feel that if it can be achieved on this basis then I might just be one step closer to mastering, as my little boy would say, 'super-human mega strength'*.


Anyway, perhaps you came here to find sewing-related ramblings. I was trying to think of some tenuous link that I could pull at to make this seem like a legitimate post for what is meant to be a blog centring around sewing. But I couldn't find one. Until I had what seemed to me to be a Eureka! moment: I could try to stand on one leg, while holding some fabric in one hand and taking a photo of myself doing this using the other hand - I thought this to be a fabric-related challenge that might just make us all happy and make this blog feel thoroughly on target with its focus! And for the challenge to have been satisfactorily met, I decided that both myself and the fabric must be completely in focus. Above are some out-takes. There were a great many because it was a fiercely tricky feat that I'd set myself, so success was not immediately forthcoming. Eventually I realised that I was so involved in thinking about the fabric or the camera angle, that consequently I was wobbling all over the place. The moment I focused only on staying upright, my foot firmly rooted to the maroon atrocity beneath, my mission was accomplished.


I'm unsure what metaphor one can take from this to apply to real life...but you might like to know that the fabric featured in these shots is a Liberty Kingly needlecord purchased from ebay last year. It might one day become a skirt, but for now it has been returned safely to its drawer.

Wishing you a lovely weekend,
Florence

* Thus far this is a level of strength that my little boy has only attributed to his grandfather...but there's little harm in having high aspirations.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

On other blogs

Photo courtesy of Made by Rae

Firstly, hello to anyone who has come over from Craft Gossip - so lovely to have you here.

I've favourited so many things in my Google feed reader in the last few months that instead of hogging them all greedily to myself I thought I might share with you some of the ones that I've loved the best, just in case you've missed them.
  • The photo at the top of this post shows some dragon slippers made by Rae to kick off her 'Celebrate the Boy' month of boyish fun. They're gorgeous. And she has written a tutorial so that we can make some too! Hurrah! Thank you, Rae.
  • I've just watched an amazing video over at Darling Dexter about the makers of Raleigh Denim jeans: it's wonderfully inspiring and makes you want to hug the couple behind the jeans just for being so innovative, lovely and wide-eyed at their own success.
  • After reading about Quinoa muffins on both the Salt and Chocolate and the Angry Chicken blog I felt compelled to make some myself. Amy Karol's tip of adding lots of spices to the recipe does indeed bring them alive and make this healthy treat feel wonderfully sweet and sugary. My children and husband all loved them...and I went for extra virtue by making them with 80% wholemeal flour.
Photo courtesy of Monaluna
  • I've completely fallen in love with this new fox print by Monaluna, shown above because I know that my little boy would adore it. He still keeps his favourite foxy jumper in his drawer from when he was only two because neither of us can bear to pack it away. Sometimes he even squeezes himself into... but, much to his irritation, Mummy says no to wintry exposed midriffs. I'm quite in love with Jennifer Moore's prints - they transport me straight back to childhood and yet still manage to look fresh and contemporary. She's a clever one.
  • I am desperate to make this spinach and feta gozleme and so am adding it to this list as a reminder to myself (and so that you might make it first and tell me how lovely it is, which will serve as a double reminder to make it). Also on my to-make-list has been these Pistachio Meringues that popped up on the Film in the Fridge blog.
  • And finally, this dress by Ophelia of Crochetie may just be one of the loveliest things I've ever seen (although she does look have a habit of looking lovely in all the things that she makes, so it may be the combination of the dress and her that makes it really stunning).
  • Just spotted: I'm also adding Tilly's Joanie dress to my list of loveliest things I've ever seen. You may remember from my Audrey dress that I have a thing about combining black and mustard, so as well as Tilly's dress being completely adorable, it also brings out strong feelings of belt envy.
In other news:
  • After falling in love with Built by Wendy's Home Stretch book after making this dress, I was delighted to find on Amazon that Wendy has released a book this month* on Coats and Jackets... I'm so hoping it will give extensive coverage to lining them. It's yet to arrive but I'll let you know what it's like the moment it does.

    Please feel free to share any of your own interesting discoveries - I'd love to hear.

    Florence x

    *UPDATED: Amazon originally suggested that this book would be with me in 4 days...they've now contacted me to say that it will be delivered on April 9th. I'm unsure how to cope with this news. Such a disappointment. By April, Blighty will be teetering on feeling distinctly Spring-like. Surely a more seasonally appropriate release date should be factored in to avoid readers wishing away the entire summer. But then I did find myself making an autumn jacket last August, so perhaps this will become an annual summer activity.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

A new bathroom


Finally, some pictures of what has stolen for my time and attention for most of January and a good part of February. Above are the tiny mosaic tiles above our new sink, against our one wall of wallpaper. The pictures don't show it very well, but although they are almost colourless, both the wallpaper and the tiles are very sparkly.

I never tire of seeing 'before and after' pictures on other people's blogs, so I thought I might share some of my own. Our bathroom used to be an odd 'L' shape and there was a small corridor to reach the bathroom, so we decided that we'd love to get rid of the pointless walkway and turn the bathroom into a nice big square.

Before - with pointless corridor
After - without pointless corridor
When we moved in we replaced the loo, bath and shower and stripped the walls, because they were the only aspects of it that we could afford to tackle and they desperately needed doing. Unfortunately, the old tiles leaked and the replacement bath wasn't properly installed, which meant that we never got to use the new shower as the water that leaked from so many places threatened to damage the rooms below. By December the sink leaked, the hot water tap had stopped working and the unused shower pump beneath the bath had to be disconnected from its leaking pipes, so when the builders arrived at the beginning of January we were quite delighted to see them.

Before - complete with ugly air vents and leaking tiles

Before - I always found the way these tiles had been put on to resemble a flight of stairs more than a little disturbing.


Unfortunately, once work began our bathroom looked like this for a very long time as our plumber became unwell. Bathing was primitive and came complete with bits of plaster and loft insulation floating in the water. Once the bath was removed entirely, more plumber illness followed and the children had several baths in the kitchen sink until the new bath could be plumbed in.


It also stumbled at this point for a long time too and I remember feeling that the new bathroom might only ever have a bath in it. The black paint is apparently known as Black Jack and stops any damp from penetrating the walls, but it made me think how much fun it would be to have a blackboard above the bath for moments of inspiration.

After - the bath is a funny one that is a square at one end to make it perfect for showering, but the cubicle doors fold back for bathing.

After
It took over a month to get to this point...but just like childbirth, the horror of bathroom installation seems to melt away once you have a lovely shiny new bathroom to use (or it did until I started looking over these pictures and then the horror all came flooding back to me).

And now the other side of the room:

We had open shelves that would be tidied about once a month and then get disrupted the moment we needed to find some Savlon and plasters in a hurry....but I think really the reason that our bathroom was so messy was because it was such a horrible place to spend time in that I felt uninspired to try to keep it tidy (this is unusual for me as I love tidying and cleaning). I feel most reticent to show you this picture...but it's impossible to understand why what we now have is such a great improvement without seeing how it truly was before. Brace yourself:

Before
After - at night time

After - in daylight

There was even some bathroom sewing involved in the transformation. Curtains and blinds are perhaps the things that I most loathe to make. I don't even tend to consider the making of them as sewing; sewing feels like fun, where to me, making window coverings feels like torture. However, the quote for someone else to make two Roman blinds for us came to over £500...so it felt as though venturing into uncharted Roman-blind-making-territory was a risk worth taking at the prospect of saving so much money. Our local interior designers - who are utterly wonderful - helped me pick out some fabric on the basis of my tile and wallpaper samples. For a bathroom, silk can't be used as it's a mold magnet, but I was delighted with the fabric that they found for me, which looks silky and has a sparkly iridescent quality (this somehow isn't picked up in the photos), but isn't actually silk. I'm lucky that the town I live in seems to have lots of good shops filled with helpful people, so once I'd collected my roll of material, I went straight to the curtain-makers where they were able to give me all the advice I needed about how to make a Roman blind. They sent me off feeling like I knew vaguely what to do, with the instruction that I was to ring them if I got at all stuck - it's this kind of kindness that can give you the courage to have a go at something that you feel most uncertain about doing it (the lady also told me that if it started to go wrong, then I should leave it alone and go and have a cup of tea...and that if it continued to go wrong then I should leave it until the next day entirely). I've noticed that one of my friends who is a doctor never mentions that she's a doctor when she's having a crisis with her own children, as she thinks that people are more reluctant to offer their own advice or step in and help you. So in this case I avoided saying anything that might imply that I've actually sewn nearly every day for the last four years as I didn't want them to assume that I had even the most basic level of understanding when it came to blind-making, and thankfully their advice was invaluable.


So these are my first attempt at Roman blinds - I bought a cassette that goes along the top that holds a side-winder, which means that you can hoist these blinds up and down just like you would with a roller blind, without any need for trying to keep the strings nicely balanced or winding cords around cord locks when you put them up or down. You still have to thread and make them just like you would with a standard Roman blind, but using them once made is much simpler.

The whole family's delight over the new bathroom is hard to express: three of us can now gather round the big sink for teeth-brushing; there are so many shiny mirrored surfaces the Zebra-girl has found that she can even brush her teeth looking into the light pull; we can stay in bed for longer each morning now that we can have showers instead of baths (although we haven't - we have all become so used to getting up at 6.30 to dress in time for the arrival of the builders that we've somehow continued with this); and having a shower somehow seems so much less tiring than having a bath in the morning.

I spent much of December trying to decide on wallpaper and tiles and found it so helpful when people listed what they'd used (Flickr is an excellent source of bathroom inspiration). The paint that I've listed is amazing by the way - the finish is completely chalky and matt and yet it's environmentally friendly and has a stain-resistant and washable finish ideal for bathrooms and apparently even exterior masonry.

So here's my purchasing list.

Bath and Shower tiles - Matt Architecture - Fired Earth Basics Range
Above sink tiles - Malacassa mosaic tiles in Glacier - Fired Earth
Wallpaper - Harlequin Lalika Wallpaper Azita 60205
Blind Fabric - Clara in Taupe by Lorient Decor
Flooring - Cool Limestone from Amtico's Spacia range
Wall Paint - Shirting in Ultimatt emulsion by Little Greene
Everything else - Bathstore

Despite the fact that our builders were lovely, it's so nice to have the house back to myself and to be able to return to more regular sewing hours.

Florence x

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Thinking of Valentine


I wasn't actually thinking of Valentine at all. But I am now. One of my favourite bag makers is Radley. I like the way that they make each bag in lots of different sizes, which is important for petite people as big bags can end up making one look a little bit Mrs Pepperpot. I also love their soft leather, gorgeous linings and many hidden pockets and the way that you can't tell who they're made by (well, once you've removed that pesky leather dog motif). So when I was given some money last year to buy something that I would keep for years to remind me of someone special, I chose to buy one of their bags (the person in question would have shaken his head in bemusement, and possibly horror, at that. He was not known for his handbag appreciation. But he did like things that made people happy). 


So when I discovered on Friday night that Radley had chosen to put my lovely sister's book in amongst all their beautiful bags and purses as part of their Valentines campaign...gulp. I'm so proud of her. I love the thinking behind this campaign: that the perfect Valentine's gift would be a handbag with a cloth bound book of love poetry inside really appeals to me - it's marrying two very different, but equally important aspects of being a woman: the 'wanty' bit that loves beautiful things and the deeper bit that wants to be wooed and understood on an emotional level and wants her man to realise that she is not just a superficial consumeristic handbag lover: she is that, but so much more besides. My sister was typically modest about this...so it was left to me to be deeply uncool and delighted by the fact that she even has her own product code on their website.

So anyway, back to Valentine's Day. We're not huge celebrants of it, but as regular readers will know, I will leap (in this case, forming a dusty cloud of icing sugar as I go) upon any excuse to whip up a batch of peppermint hearts. You can find my recipe here, should you feel compelled to do the same.

Those not reading through a feed reader might notice that I've changed the layout of my blog a little to make room for a third column (something that I've been coveting for a while now). This means that I've now got room for, amongst lots of other things, a few shops to advertise their wares! You can now click straight through to Kate's lovely shop M is for make... at the top right of my blog. If you're interested in advertising your own shop here too, then please do contact me or go here to find out more first.

Wishing you a lovely weekend,

Florence x

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

On roses


In the last few weeks I've been very lucky to have received a great many lovely roses, which, like buses, have all arrived in a cluster. The ones above arrived by surprise at the weekend with the Ocado man. My sister had arranged for him to come visiting and as well as these beautiful roses he also brought a bottle of pink sparkly goodness, chocolates, some mango (with a plastic lime, because Laura's shopping basket rarely gets filled without something a little odd ending up in there) and lots of other goodies. Her thoughtfulness and generosity often make me feel like crying - in a good way - because I feel so lucky that she is my sister and that people as lovely as her actually exist. (I also love that she is so sweet-spirited that she actually believed me when I told her by email this morning - expecting her to know that I was joking - that I could do headstands too and that the only reason I hadn't done them at Christmas time was because I didn't want to steal her limelight. Because that's exactly the kind of thing she really might have done. But really, if I was actually capable of doing headstands, I'm ashamed to say that I would have been right there with her, getting the children to give us marks out of ten).


This week I've mostly been sitting at the dining room table doing computery things (sewing room/bedroom: pit of dust and tools) where I've been able to look at these roses all day. They make me think of a man I knew at college - I always loved how when I asked him how he was, he would tell me that he was in 'rude health'. I imagine these roses trilling that about themselves - they are so outrageously cheerful.


Earlier last week my lovely Mama appeared with these beautiful blousey pink roses - they are exquisite and remind me of her lovely soft cheeks.


Sometimes I love something so much that I worry that I might actually photograph it away....do you think that having taken 59 photos of these roses is excessive?

 

And finally, a few weeks ago my husband bought me these beautiful white roses mixed with lilies - it was around our wedding anniversary and these are very similar to the ones that we had on our wedding day. At the time he bought them we were at the stage of building work where the front door was left open all day and the only place that I could go to keep warm was in the living room with the fire turned on...these roses kept me company in there and made it feel like there was a little bit of serenity in amongst the plaster dust.

I always think I know just which type of roses I love the best...but every time I look at the photos of all of these I'm unable to decide which type and colour really is my all-time favourite. Which makes it all the better that I can't see myself ever being in a situation where I have to definitively say which is the only rose that can continue to exist in the world. But imagine if you were....it's a decision that could take some time.

Florence x 

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Instantly downloadable patterns


I have finally put a system into place so that my patterns can be downloaded instantly, the moment they've been paid for. Previously, I've always sent my patterns out via email, which means the pattern buyer has to wait a few hours before they can begin sewing. Knowing how short my own patience levels are when I've decided that I want to sew something, I've been thinking about trying to change this for a while.


You can still buy any of my patterns straight from my blog and pay via PayPal (the patterns are featured in the Flossie Teacakes Patterns tab above, as well as in the right hand bar at the side and you don't need a PayPal account to make payment - they are happy to accept credit cards). PayPal will then take you straight to a download link to click on - doing so will allow you to save the file straight to your hardrive where you can keep it for as long as you like. You will also be sent an automated email containing the download link.

The iPhone holder shown in this post is one that I made using the Lis iPhone Holder Pattern, although I've adapted it a little to the user's specifications!

I enlisted Mr Teacakes to test out my new system today and it seems to work well, but please do contact me if you make a purchase and have any problems.

I'm hoping this will make transactions quicker and smoother for buyers...and I'm also delighted by the fact that this automated system will mean that I don't have to take my laptop on holiday with me this year.

Florence x

Ps - I'm sorry if this post reads like a technical announcement...the computer wizardry involved in changing all of this over has left me temporarily drained and devoid of all personality. I'm off to record service announcements for London Underground now (am I the only person who, as a child, thought there was a woman sitting in a box somewhere forced to say 'Mind the gap, stand clear of the doors, please' over and over again in the same monotone voice? When my mother finally broke it to me that it was a recording I always wondered what the woman had done with the rest of her life post-recording. Now I know...she was in between doing complicated things with a computer...which would have been really complicated as I think it was only BBC Micro computers around at that point).

Monday, 7 February 2011

A new gold pen


Sewing has ground to a crashing halt, as the room where I would usually sew is mostly full of dust and workmen's tools during the week...but I did get a little sewing done this weekend in the form of making some Roman blinds, which are something entirely new to me. I can't say that I was leaping up and down in anticipation of making them as it feels more like Sensible Shoes sort of sewing - utilitarian and necessary - but it was a relief to finally turn my machine back on.

Photo by Anna Maria Horner
With so little evidence of productivity to show you, I've scrolled through my camera card (which has over 2,000 pictures on and when I scroll through quickly it feels like re-living the last three months at high-speed) to find some past-doodling. The eagle-eyed (or just the obsessional) among you may have already recognised where I had taken inspiration from for the drawing at the head of this post. It's taken directly from the promotional material for Anna Maria Horner's Innocent Crush fabric line. Even before the line was released I'd fallen in love with it on the basis of the shot shown above. I love the way it's arranged, as well as the fabrics it features.


Back in December, with a new gold pen and a smudgy gold ink pad at my disposal I was looking for a subject matter to experiment with. I enjoyed doing this, as decorating the bolts of fabric also gave me a reason to use the old stamper that my sister bought for me as a gift a few years ago. My fabric girl wears rather demure ballet flats, but other than that I've tried to copy the photo faithfully. As a result my children are disturbed that the girl is headless. It's a feeling that I can relate to at the moment though, so I'm happy with that.

Wishing you a lovely week,
Florence x

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

I'm sorry....


I'm playing around with the layout on my blog today, so it may look worse before it looks better! x

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Books for total immersion


Sometimes, despite spending hundreds of hours a year sewing, cocooned by threads and fabrics, it simply does not feel quite enough...I still feel hungry for greater immersion. While the desire for 'more' can be well supplemented by reading blogs, pattern books or instruction manuals (yes, I have to admit that they can sometimes serve as bedtime reading), they have the not entirely restful effect of only setting my mind racing further with new ideas. Sometimes what is most welcome is a whole novel around the theme: somewhere to become further absorbed, yet stilled at the same time, by pages that are saturated by descriptions of textures, processes, smells, the feeling of working with tools and of being skilled in something, the meditative quality of being so focused in on something. I have never particularly sought these books out, but the delight is immense in beginning a book and finding by chance that I can become immersed not only in the story, but in a character's creative processes. So I thought that I might share with you some of my favourites: I recommend these not on literary merit, but for the sheer joy of losing yourself to the heady descriptions of things being made (so if you are a very high-brow sort of reader, you may wish to look away).

The Blood of Flowers- Anita Amirrezvani - Set in Iran, not only does this book hold a wonderful and enlightening story (albeit a gruelling one - this isn't the aspect that I focus on here, but I should warn you that it is for the most part an upsetting and awful story, but one which is very much worth reading). Woven throughout the latter part of the story is the central character's journey as she learns to make carpets - the lengthy and involved descriptions of the design, planning and creation of the carpets have not been popular with everyone (most of the people in my book group skim-read these bits and felt they interrupted the flow of the story), but I found them utterly captivating. They go alongside some fairly raunchy sex scenes too...

The Home-Maker- Dorothy Canfield Fisher - This is a book that has been published by Persephone, so comes bound by one of their beautiful grey jackets, which only adds to the loveliness. This story was first published in 1924 and tells of a woman stifled and embittered by her role as homemaker caring for her children and rather spineless husband. When her husband is bedridden after injuring his back, husband and wife are forced to swap roles and while the children blossom under their father's care, Evangeline comes alive when she takes on a role in a department store - it's here that her love of fabric and clothing is indulged and she forges out a successful career and a life that is newly fulfilling, which may sound rather pedestrian, but for the time, her new purpose within the family was far from conventional and it is fascinating to read about what drives both her and her husband as their role reversal unfolds (despite Evangeline being fundamentally dislikable for much of the book). 

Lucia, Lucia and Very Valentine- Adrianna Trigiani - These books suffer from having awful front covers that belie how well researched and readable they are. The former focuses on the life of a seamstress, the latter on the life of a shoe maker. Both are essentially love stories set against the backdrop of a large Italian family, however, the descriptions of textures, materials, inspiration and creative processes are so wonderfully absorbing that for me her books transcend the boundaries of being forgettable holiday reads and make me wish that they'd never end.

Bespoke: Savile Row Ripped and Smoothed - Richard Anderson - This book is for the true needle and thread geeks among us (myself included). It's essentially an autobiography of Richard Andersons's time at the Savile Row tailors, Huntsmans, and gives a fascinating insight into how a Savile Row tailors is run, the expectations of the clients, the pressures of the work, the characters that make up the workforce...but perhaps more interesting than anything were his descriptions of learning to cut patterns and the errors and triumphs he experienced in this process.

Last week, my sister also sent me Bride Flight which she recently published, with this note attached: 'I am not sure if I've mentioned this book before but it's one I thought you might enjoy - quite an epic and very emotionally engaging, plus one of the characters is a dressmaker.' I'm yet to start on it, but I'm feeling hopeful that this too may have descriptions concerning dressmakery hidden amongst the pages...so this inclusion is on the basis of anticipation rather than having actually having read it, although my sister rarely recommends something for me that I don't like, so even if that element doesn't dominate I'm feeling enthusiastic about reading it.

Apologies for the lack of relevant photos to go with the books...the books, camera and myself somehow haven't managed to assemble ourselves in the same place at the same time today.

I'd love to hear any of your own recommendations for further immersion or your thoughts if you've already read any of these.

Florence x

Ps. As an aside I thought I'd share with you that every 'i' in this post has been copy and pasted into place, as maddeningly the 'i' key on my laptop has stopped working...'z' would have been more convenient.