Thursday 29 July 2010

Garden companions

As we are enjoying a fine day I decided I'd show you a few of the companions that share the garden here at Flutterby Patch. Before I could photograph them I had to find them! They quickly become concealed by greenery at this time of year and are well camouflaged with moss.

This is my stone flower seller who is stepping out from under a large rhododendron bush.

An old frog sits on the edge of the pond. On a good day a spout of water leaps from his mouth but not today I'm afraid.

A pair of cute birds sit in the bird bath

This little cherub dates back many years. He stood centre stage in our very first garden. 

These cherubs once held a fountain but sadly those days are long gone and they now play quietly in a shady spot.

Two moss covered rabbits wait for a clean.

A pair of squirrels eat nuts whilst supporting the old stone seat.

At one time there were four lions guarding the sundial but wind and rain have taken their toll on them.

A little elfin fellow sits atop the wind chimes

And last, but not least, an angel sits in the bough of a tree and blows kisses to all who pass by.

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Two questions for you

Once again I'm featuring some pages from my 1940s homemaking book and I have a couple of questions which I'm hoping someone can answer.

The first question is about fabric. Featured in the book is this pretty bedroom which has floral fabric used for the bedspread and dressing table frill.

Also included are instructions for making a matching compendium to hold writing paper and envelopes.

The reader is told that the fabric used in this room is 'Sparva Spun' (much sought after but in short supply during the war years).

Sadly I'm no longer able to ask my mum about these wartime items and I wondered if anyone out there knew what 'Sparva Spun' fabric looked like. It was apparently made in Manchester, England and exported overseas, especially to Australia and New Zealand.

Here are a couple of links I found on the subject. The first is a British wartime advertisement and the second a picture from the NSW State Library (Australia) showing a great photo of the sales ladies. I'm presuming they are all wearing dresses made from Sparva Spun fabric.

These pretty fabrics that mum passed on to me both date from those times. Are they 'Sparva Spun' I wonder?

Here is another bedroom featured in the book. The Art Deco dressing table is very similar to one my mum had. She kept scent bottles and talc on one side. Her jewelry box on the other and on the glass shelf  in the centre were her hairbrush, comb and matching clothes brush.

All the items stood on pretty pale blue mats that had been crocheted by my granny. Although laundered many times over the years I'm happy to say they are still in perfect condition

A set of three matching mats were typically found on dressing tables. One large round, oval or oblong one in the centre and smaller round, oval or square ones on each side. 

Granny must have loved making mats as she presented us with quite a few over the years. All now highly prized by yours truly.

My question to you dear bloggers is ...Can you tell me why a set of three mats (one large and 2 small) is often referred to as a 'Duchess Set'? I've tried Googling for the answer but, although I've found plenty of 'Duchess Set' mats for sale, I've been unable to discover why they are given this name.

I'm hoping someone out there will have the answer!

Tuesday 20 July 2010

How times have changed

I popped over to visit 'Little Jenny Wren' this morning and her recent post about decluttering really struck a chord with me. Like Jenny I'm part of the baby boomer generation. During my childhood it was normal to only receive toys and gifts for birthdays and Christmas and as a consequence I have only a small collection of childhood items which remain special to me.

I'm afraid my own children were given a great many more toys than I would have ever dreamed of. Now that they have grown up and left home I'm desperately trying to downsize but there are so many memories stashed away in their cupboards and drawers that it's difficult to know where to start.

Take a look at this charming illustration from a 1986 Laura Ashley catalogue. 'Bedtime in the Nursery', 1940s style. The glow from the fire lights an idyllic scene in which three happy (freshly bathed) children listen to mummy's bedtime story whilst nanny draws the curtains and attends to the nursery chores. But just look at all that clutter! The shelves are overflowing with toys and the floor is awash with playthings. This is very definitely a modern interpretation of nursery life in the 40s.

Below is an illustration of a nursery taken from a book dated 1946. What a contrast!

Beside this picture is written ............ 'Could any young ones wish for more than this lovely nursery provides? It is airy, bright and just the right height for little people of different ages to put their things away tidily'.............Throughout the book there is much emphasis on having a place for everything and everything in its place (what joy that would be!)

Here is another sweet picture entitled ' Pretty and so Very Inexpensive'.

The text tells us that pink and grey is a lovely colour scheme for a nursery and this little room could be prepared very inexpensively. The walls are painted grey and the grey cupboard is painted pink inside. The screen behind the crib is simply an old clothes-horse which has been covered in fabric to match the curtains. Somehow I find the simplicity and lack of clutter in this little room very appealing.

Over the years my mum hung onto her own items which had cherished memories and this pretty pink and grey fabric is one of them. It dates from the 1940s so I reckon it would have been perfect for the little nursery above.

I had to include this final picture as the associated text says a lot about those times. It reads .........
' Your schoolgirl daughter would love this attic room. There in summer she can continue her studies and also entertain her friends. A bookcase is something she will prize. Search your lumber. Could you find the wherewithal to copy this fitment? The top is painted and the rest covered with oddments of paper to match the room. A charming piece of furniture'........

Can you imagine a young girl in 2010 being satisfied with this simple uncluttered look? A place to continue her studies and entertain her friends.....!!!! Sadly today's values are so very different.

And so I must continue to confront my decluttering and decide which things will and stay and which will go. However, without exception it is the oldest items that are always placed on the 'to stay' pile.

Monday 19 July 2010

A modern kitchen!

We've had another wet weekend and so I've spent some time emptying cupboards and sorting through stuff that hasn't seen the light of day for quite a while. Amongst some of my parent's bits and pieces I found odds and ends of wallpaper which mum had squirreled away many years ago.

This one dates from the late 1950s or early 1960s and I can remember it in our kitchen. Pictures of foods in a tile formation were very popular then.

Wallpaper in those days had selvedges that needed trimming by hand. Mum was a great hanger of wallpaper but dad was always responsible for trimming the edges. Thankfully ready trimmed paper was introduced around this time. I can't imagine doing it today!

Mum and dad were married just after the war and the kitchen pictured below was the style young people dreamed of. I found it in one of dad's home making books dating from the 1940s.

I love the heading......... 'Ask any bride...... would a kitchen like this make a dream come true?'

And how about this.......

'You can clear the decks in the perfect kitchen. A place for everything and everything put away tidily.' How modern these kitchens must have seemed compared to pre war styles.

But what a huge change took place in just 20 short years. This pictures comes from a mid 1960's book.

By then everyone wanted more vibrant colours and mum changed our kitchen wallpaper to something more sunny and bright. This one dates from the mid 60s. I remember a new kitchen chair with a yellow vinyl seat arriving which made the room seem 'very modern'.

I now own that chair and it still has its original yellow seat! It lives in our utility room. It's a bit paint splattered and worn round the edges but very sturdy and still a useful item. I suppose I could paint it and perhaps make a cover for the seat but that would change its character and so I'm happy to leave it as it is.

Friday 16 July 2010

The morning after

We enjoyed long lazy days of glorious sunshine during June and the petunias in my pots just kept on blooming. The entire garden was a blaze of vibrant colour.....wonderful!

July brought showers and finally, last night, torrential rain and wind. The pretty heads of my poor petunias were ripped from their stems and tossed around the patio.

In fact flowers all around the garden are now a sorry sight!

I've rescued a few brave little roses that survived the storm and have popped them in water. As the weekend forecast is for more heavy rain I shall have to be content to view the garden through the window.

I wish I knew the secret of retaining a perfect garden in our wet and windy British climate?

Indoors or out, enjoy your weekend.

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Fun times

I wonder how many of you share your family holidays with a host of cuddly toys?

When my two children were very young I would pack one small cuddly toy and a book for them each to take. But one particular year, when they had grown a little older and wiser, I remember them asking, "Can the toys come with us?"

I had to disappoint them and refuse as I knew this could have entailed a great many cuddly characters coming along for the ride and taking up valuable space in the already full car.

And so we began the trip to our holiday destination with just two small toys and a few books.

However, we hadn't travelled far when, turning round to speak to the children in the seat behind, I was greeted by a large number of fluffy faces and giggles of delight. The toys had somehow been smuggled into the car when I wasn't looking and were now looking forward to having a happy holiday with their young owners.

If my children are reading this post they will no doubt remember the fun they had that year with........

Beggar and Kitty

Keele and Flora

Tosh and Sheba

Bonnie and Clyde

and last but by no means least, Mrs Mop and her little friend Maggie.

Seaside holidays in England can often be windy and wet but we are well used to braving the elements.

Whatever the weather, there are always reasons to be cheerful.

Mrs Mop was (and still is) guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Apparently she was 'smuggled' into university for a while by my daughter.

My children are grown now but this cuddly family can still be found in my son's old bedroom almost certainly looking to make more mischief when the time is right.

Friday 9 July 2010

Cupboard love

How well I remember arriving home from school one afternoon (many years ago) to find my mother struggling to manoeuvre an enormous cupboard through our front door and into the hall. This scruffy brown stained item stood about 7ft tall and mum had enthusiastically purchased it from a local auction sale because 'its size offered numerous storage possibilities'. Two men with a large van had delivered the monster and now it was up to mum and me to get it indoors before my dad came home from work.

The cupboard had obviously been made by an amateur carpenter and apart from its 'storage possibilities' it had nothing to commend it. My dad was a craftsman and his woodworking skills were superb and so you can imagine the horrified look on his face when he arrived home to find mum and me still battling with the cupboard.

After much discussion he was eventually persuaded to lend a hand and with the shelves and doors removed the monster was taken indoors, but it only got as far as the front hall. Mum wasted no time in painting it white (inside and out) and the 'big cupboard', as it was affectionately known, became home to a great many household objects. And there it stayed for the next 6 years until we moved to a new house.

The big cupboard now found a home in the conservatory where it stayed for the next 24 years until my parents moved to a smaller house. With doors off and shelves removed it found a home in my mum's utility room.

Mum and dad sadly passed away 5 years ago and the big cupboard seemed to have reached the end of it's useful life as it was simply 'too big'. However, I was keen to inherit it (due to its storage possibilities) and with great difficulty and with much help from husband, son and daughter we eventually managed to get it through our back door and into the utility room, but no further. And what a useful cupboard it has been.

Then a few months ago we decided to give the utility room a much needed make-over and a new purpose built fitted cupboard was ordered. The end of the line for the big cupboard perhaps?.........

Happily I can tell you it's useful days are continuing. With some persuasion hubby agreed to dismantle the cupboard and then re-assemble it as you would a piece of flat pack furniture. The doors and shelves were removed (that was the easy bit) and then the cupboard was broken into smaller parts.

With 2 weeks of constant sunshine it has lived in the garden where hubby has stripped and sanded the various bits. You might just be able to spot him at work beyond the flower bed.

Once cleaned down I painted all the individual parts. Yesterday we reassembled the cupboard in my newly decorated breakfast room. And here it is looking very grand in its new home.

It has new knobs to match my blue and white theme 

and inside I'm able to store all the blue and white china that I've collected over the years.

The old cupboard has travelled a long way and had many homes and I feel sure my mum would be pleased to see it now looking so smart. It would be very easy to think of dozens of uses for it but for now I'm happy for it store my china and if I ever decide it should be moved, then the job will simply involve removing the necessary screws that hold it together. This would of course involve a strong man with a screw driver who knows how to reassemble it!