painting the 1940’s beds

Having left our children’s beds behind in England, I was very pleased to stumble on a pair of twin 1940’s beds for sale not far from the lake. They were in pieces, but they showed great character and possibility, and even bore a plate stating that they were English themselves, by appointment to the King. Well then!

before

Such a charming shape. I confess to desaturating this picture, you didn’t want to see orange wood either, I’m sure. In summer weather I chalk painted them.

painting the 1940s beds

I sanded them a bit.

painted headboards

I gave them a coat of beeswax polish, and buffed them a little.

painted headboards

The children slept through the summer on the box spring and mattresses, stacked in their room. They slept through the autumn on the box spring and mattresses, stacked in their room.

Then I had a moment to assemble the beds, and here I got a bit of a surprise. More about this surprise, and to see the finished pieces, here.

country dance

Not so long ago, when we first thought of leaving London for a tiny village in Sussex, a village fair (with Buster Keaton playing in the hall!) and a barn dance persuaded us that we’d found our community. Glorious fiddling, young and old dancing round a barn at the local farm, beautiful food on the tables from the land around. We met such fine friends there, and we miss them very much. So, here in the tiny community surrounding our new island home in the forested Highlands, with great joy, we went to our first country dance at the old schoolhouse.

country-dance-twirl

Some of us were so excited, we began before the accordion started, even as the potluck was being packed away.

country-dance-caller

Here is the caller, stepping in to dance with my small one to round out the pairs. Later she danced with our beloved village elder, now in his nineties, youngest and eldest.

country-dance-pairs

These are simple dances, and deceptively so. We were astonished at how flushed and tired we could get! Country-dance workout. We’ve been reading Austen all winter, and watching films of her books, so a dance like this echoes stories across history. “A ball? I long for a ball!”

the old schoolhouse

Out of the old schoolhouse, back into the world of snow and ice.

little miller

Now, if you’ve been following closely for a while, you might recall an antique grinder I acquired at a village shop near the cottage we once lived in. I have great affection for the mill, and for cooking with my family in that old kitchen, so I made a little something with some images I came across the other day.

Simple pleasures.

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p>(If you’re fond of short appleturnover movies like the little miller, you might like to nose around the old schoolhouse. Along the lefthand side of the page, you’ll find it.)

hand-tied bouquet

Would you like to learn to hand-tie a bouquet? I spent a beautiful day studying floristry at the Blooming Green flower farm, and made a little movie for you to see how it’s done. Jen showed us some very simple directions to follow, to stunning effect, using gorgeous flowers and extraordinary greenery, freshly picked on the farm.

You’d like some more detail? Let’s take it slowly:

hand-tied-bouquet

After cutting your plants and standing them in a bucket of water for a good soak, begin by conditioning the flowers. Simply strip the lower leaves off the flowers to keep them from decomposing in the water. Wear gloves if you like.

hand-tied-bouquet

Lay out your flowers and greens and have a sense of how many you have of each. Odd numbers are often the most pleasing to the eye.

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Begin with a fluffy, well-structured bit of greenery, to support the flowers that will surround it. Fennel is quite wonderful.

hand-tied-bouquet

Lay your first blossom at an angle to the green.

hand-tied-bouquet

If you have three blossoms to add, turn the bouquet a third, add another at the same angle, turn another third, and add the last blossom. Have a look at the movie to get a sense of how Jen turns the bouquet and adds more flowers.

hand-tied-bouquet

Continue to work in this way, choosing greens and flowers and paying attention to multiples, so if you have five lengths of weeping willow, turn the bouquet in fifths, always adding at that same angle to creating a tight, spiralling structure to the stems.

hand-tied-bouquet

Now and then turn the bouquet to have a look from the top to see if you’ve got a rounding, arching shape to the bouquet – though if there are longer sprigs that naturally want to spray up and out, Jen likes to let those have their way, too.

The tie Jen uses is quite wonderful. Simply fold a length of twine in half, loop it round your thumb as you hold the stems in place. Wrap the two ends around the stems and back to the loop, and slip them through it. Then you can pull the ends in opposite directions, wrapping as many times as you like around and tying a firm bow when they meet. I’ve forgotten the name of this tie, it’s charming!

hand-tied-bouquet

Snip the stems cleanly at the end, leaving enough length to support the flowers.

hand-tied-bouquet

A well-made hand-tied bouquet will have enough structure to stand alone! Let me know if you have a go. I’m so pleased to have had a lesson in hand-tying, such a satisfying thing to be able to do yourself. Thanks Jen! If you’re in England and looking for ecologically, locally grown flowers to buy online, or better yet, you’d like to pick your own for an event, visit Blooming Green in Kent. They are such a delight.

If you like studying traditional skills this way, have a look at the old school movies. They come with beautiful patterns, guides and materials, available in the appleturnovershop.

knaves acre

Knaves Acre is the 400-year-old cottage in Sussex that we had the utter delight to live in for a couple of years. Such a community, such wonderful countryside, and a beloved circle of friends. The old cottage is featured in the summer issue of the British interior design magazine, Heart Home. There are beautiful, inspiring spaces in every issue, do go have a look. Would you like to see Knaves from their perspective? Here are some of the images.

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In my studio, the hand-crank machine on the long antique table, usually covered in fabrics, papers, clay pieces, but sometimes transformed for a party.

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The old treadle. Those steps lead up to a reading room in the eaves, and the door opens to the deck and a spectacular view across the weald.

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I do love shelving in a studio for yarns and fabrics and excellent tools. I like to see my things, and know where to find everything at a glance.

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Our daybed, much transformed since we acquired it, with the pillows I sewed as studies in linen all across it. Friends would sleep here, and it is the best place to curl up with tea and a book. I’m very fond of the craft cupboard in the corner.

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We studied at the little round table in the mornings and shared our meals there in the evenings. I like to keep an old crate full of study books and pencils nearby, and basket for napkins and mats. I always thought of the ledge beside it as a mantel, though the little wood stove is opposite.

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The writing desk that I fixed up, and its companion, the painted chair. I love to have a place dedicated to writing and image editing, and all the small things that surround that sort of work. Well positioned between the wood stove and the windows! The doors lead to the rambling old garden, once an acreage, with a pond and a swing and a greenhouse in it. And a cliff!

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The settee is an upholstery project, my first. Next to it a table I revived, and my tall girl’s bluebird typewriter, with a story in it as always. The flowers all round the cottage were picked at Blooming Green.

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Up the steps are the bedrooms, with the painted bed and pot cupboard. The vaulted ceilings are something else! From that window we could see the Bluebell steam by in the distance.

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And through to the girls’ room, tiny but perfectly formed. The truckle bed helped the space function well, such a cosy little room in the eves. One wall was entirely lined with shelves full of books and beloved games.

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I loved this kitchen for its marble counter in one corner, bright windows beyond the hob, and open space to stack my own pottery along with pieces I’ve collected. (And for its old edition of Mrs Beeton’s.) It was fascinating, and so much fun, to watch the lovely editors and photographer Paul Craig working to tell the cottage’s story, looking at the space so differently and shooting from angles I’d never have expected. We ate the tarts I’d baked, and had a lovely time.