Monthly Archives: March 2015

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Instant Cakery Frou'ing!, Rocking Dog

Instant Cakery Frou’ing!

Happy Mother’s Day to one and all! I wish I had my Mum still around (it’s been a long sad 29 years without her) but SO appreciate being a Mum myself. I feel truly blessed.

Youngest lovely daughter and I baked a Victoria Sponge this morning and I couldn’t resist a little frou’ing!

Have a wonderful day.

Victorious Sponge!, Rocking Dog

Victorious Sponge!

Gift Wrapping and Seafaring Artists Tale

Who Will Be The Lucky Recipients?, Rocking Dog

Who Will Be The Lucky Recipients?

On Tuesday I took my lovely octogenarian friend to the Holburne Museum in Bath. Currently on display is a temporary exhibition of paintings from the Swindon Collection, entitled Gwen John to Lucian Freud, Home and the World. One painting I particularly loved was one by Alfred Wallis, Ship amid Tall Waves. The painting inspired me to do a naive interpretation in the form of a pen drawing on black tissue for a gift I needed to wrap.

The catalogue gave me a gist of Wallis’s life and I wanted to make it into a little tale for children, so here goes!

160 years ago (that’s a VERY long time) a little boy called Alfred Wallis was born in a seaside town in Devon. Alfred simply loved the sea, and when he was nine he said goodbye to his parents and went off to be a cabin boy on a big ship. I rather suspect that you would prefer to be on a boat rather than going to school, especially if there’s Maths! Life must have been quite tough for young Alfred, with sea sickness, home-sickness, lots of shoes to polish and clothes to wash. When he was a little bit older he became a fisherman and caught fish in the icy waters near Canada.

Eventually he decided that he wanted to come home and have a little cottage and garden, no more adventures at sea. He met a lady called Susan and after asking her to marry him, they settled in the beautiful little Cornish town called St Ives. He had a job as a Rag and Bone Man. People would bring out pieces of furniture and junk they no longer wanted. Alfred would then repair and sell on some of the junk. He and Susan were poor, but very happy, they loved walking on the beach and drinking tea together in their little cottage.

After a few years Susan died, and Alfred was very, very sad. To help himself feel better he decided to start painting pictures. He loved to paint ships and the sea, and can you believe that Alfred even used ship paint to paint his pictures! As he was very poor and couldn’t afford proper paper, the kind shopkeeper would save him cardboard from boxes that had contained apples, cabbages and all sorts of other things. The cardboard suited Alfred just so!

One day two famous artists called Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood happened to be visiting St Ives.They passed Alfred’s little cottage and being very nosey looked through the open door. They saw lots of Alfred’s ship paintings nailed to the wall and were enchanted by them. They knocked on the door and spoke to Alfred, telling him how how much they loved his work. They supplied him with paint, and introduced him to rich people who they were sure would want to buy Alfred’s paintings.

Despite the help from many artists who appreciated his talents, Alfred was still very poor and very old. He went to live in the workhouse. I don’t know if you know anything about workhouses, but they were very tough places, with strict rules and no luxuries. The Government did not want to encourage people to live there, it really was for people who had no other option. Many workhouse residents were orphans, or very poor, ill or like Alfred very old. Residents would be given food, clothing and a bed. Those that were fit enough would have to work to earn their keep.

Poor Alfred eventually died in the workhouse at the age of eighty seven. Lots of artists came to his funeral and they were very sad. Alfred’s grave is a magnificent one, with tiles by Bernard Leach, featuring a little seafarer stepping up into a huge lighthouse. The grave itself looks out onto the sea, with its bobbing fishing boats, foamy surf and glinting orange sun which rises and falls on the horizon.

I wonder what Alfred would think about the fact that his little cardboard boat pictures are now seen by millions of people every year in galleries all around the world.

Gift wrap detail-
Black Gift- tissue paper, anchor button, thick bakers twine,”Signo” white pen, sticky tape
Pink Gift- tissue paper, ribbon, rosette (made up of varying sized material circles cut with Pinking Shears, leaf shapes, old velvet hat decorations, button), “Love” ticket (Hobbycraft), Glue gun, sticky tape.

Unadorned, Rocking Dog


Frouing Kit, Rocking Dog

Frouing Kit

Rosette Detail, Rocking Dog

Rosette Detail

A Vintage Scarf Cushion For Mother’s Day

 Vintage Scarves For A Simple Crafty Make, Rocking Do

Vintage Scarves For A Simple Crafty Make

The Paper Cut Out Girls are making simple vintage scarf cushions in time for Mother’s Day! These are easy peasy to concoct, inexpensive and unique. As it involves using a ready made cushion cover there is no need to panic about inserting a zip.

For a cushion you will need the following:-

A pretty scarf (look in charity shops, vintage fairs etc..) A cushion cover which is of the same size and that complements the colours of your chosen scarf. Alternatively, you can use a larger cover so that your scarf has a wide border around it. A cushion pad to plumply fill your cushion cover. Pins, needle and thread to match your scarf.

If necessary launder your scarf prior to giving it a good press. Take your cushion cover (I used a velvet one from Ikea) and like the Paper Cut Out Girls carefully pin the scarf to the cover. Remember to keep any zip or fastening to the base of your scarf design so that when finished the zip isn’t noticeable.

Thread a needle, and with small neat stitches sew around the scarf to attach it to the cover. Be careful not to sew any stitches which will impede the movement of the zip. Finish neatly, cut any loose cottons and remove pins. Press well.

Fill the cover with the cushion pad. I personally like using a feather pad, but synthetic pads do not require pumping up, are washable and are great for allergy sufferers.

Voila! A lovely cushion to dress a bed, Lloyd Loom chair or sofa.

What You Need, Rocking Dog

What You Need

Pinning For Paper Cut Girl, Rocking Dog

Pinning For Paper Cut Girl

Voila!, Rocking Dog


Rocking Dog Loves Floral Loveliness!

Rare Orchid, Rocking Dog

Rare Orchid

I am no minimalist and I love flowers on anything and everything! I thought i’d share some particular favourites of mine.

The orchid vase has been with me now for about twenty five years and like the Honiton vases and the Meissen piece pictured below, all came from the now obsolete Hope Chapel Saturday Market in Hotwells, Bristol. The market for in excess of 35 years was part of our every other Saturday routine, both B.C. (before children) and A.C. (after children). Our house is filled with Hotwells’ buys, small pieces of furniture, Pawnbrokers balls, jewellery, ornaments, fabric and clothing. Even whilst living in Germany my mother would send me letters telling me of her purchases from the Saturday market. I’d simply wish myself there! Coffee and cake time at the chapel would see the family de-newspapering purchases, discussing the age, use and beauty of an item. The children grew up with Hotwells and enjoyed the freedom to browse and buy independently. Oilily clothes, toys, books and games all came into our household at bargainous prices. How I lament the loss of the market now that the chapel has returned to its original purpose.

Back to the orchid vase, I love it! I know nothing of its provenance, there are no marks on its base and I think it’s probably an amateur hand painted piece. My father bought it for me as a Birthday present and I have a feeling that it was about £15. It’s just simply very cheery and characterful especially when it is filled with equally cheery flowers.

The Meissen piece I fell in love with instantly, loving all its three dimensional flowers and fruit, together with hand painted insects. It had taken a bit of a bashing prior to my owning it, with some of the fragile blooms having been restored somewhat shabbily. I realise that I am never going to be in the league to own a perfect piece of Meissen, thus I am happy to covet this piece. I particularly love the Columbine flowers and wild strawberries. Again, this was a birthday present from my dear dad. It cost around £40 and is now worth considerably more, but as the people on Antiques Roadshow nearly always say “I’d never sell it”!

The little vintage textile picture is by Julie Penney of Aunt Jane’s Attic. Being a sentimental old so and so, I love the stories connected with some of Julie’s pieces. She made the rash and bold decision a few years ago to move from the North to the Jurassic coast and now sells her wares in Bridport and beyond.

Finally the Honiton vases, I bought these at Hotwells when I was in my teens. I think they were quite a grown up purchase and I remember my parents loaning me some money so that I could buy them. I am surprised that despite in excess of seven house moves, three boisterous children and a ball loving dog they have survived unscathed! I love the muted simplicity of the vases’ decoration, which includes the papery Honesty seed heads.

Message for the children- when I am dead and buried do not feel sentimental about my floral china pots. Please feel free to sell them and buy something YOU like. Feel it’s vitally important to say that.. in all Honesty!

Magical Meissen, Rocking Dog

Magical Meissen

Julie Penney's Vintage Garden, Rocking Dog

Julie Penney’s Vintage Garden

Honiton Honesty, Rocking Dog

Honiton Honesty

A Lovely Bit Of This And That In Bath.

Food For Thought, Rocking Dog

Food For Thought

Saturday, youngest fashionista daughter (Liv) and I headed to Bath for a day of mini adventures. Liv headed to the Guildhall for a talk by Mary Portas, based on her newly published memoir “Shop Girl”. Apparently it was really entertaining and a question at the end of the talk was so well answered by the retail guru. She was asked which British brand she’d like to rejuvenate and rebrand. The answer? M & S, she also qualified that she wouldn’t like the job. Imagine alienating all those devoted Per Una customers!

I meanwhile trotted to the flea market down by the Old Tram Shed on Walcot Street. Not vast, but with interesting eclectic stalls it is worth a look. I loved some really enormous bottle driers, but know I need to declutter rather than add more stuff! Unlike many cities, Bath has managed to hang on to a wide range of independent shops and so browsing is enjoyable. I also went into the Guildhall Market for ribbon supplies. The stall has the largest and most diverse range of ribbons, lace, braids and haberdashery, a sewers paradise. Best window in Bath goes to Maze in Green Street. It was so simple but so effective, with tin bucket filled with planted daffodils and another window displaying a tin wash tub filled with bulbs yet to bloom. I have my Grandmother’s wash tub and glass wash board. At the moment the crenellated tub is filled with logs for the stove, whilst at Christmas I use it for the Christmas tree.

Liv and I regrouped, and headed for lunch at a perennial favourite The Fine Cheese Company on Walcot Street. Originally solely a cheese shop, it now sells gorgeous breads and deli items, together with offering customers a sit down watering hole. We loved our charcuterie platter and cheese plate (a months oozy cheese ration)! We even sat out in the sun…delicious!

Liv had to head back to Bristol, but I went to a talk by the author Julie Summers, “Fashion On The Ration”. The book accompanies a major new exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, London. In these days of throw away fashion it’s so easy to forget about just how difficult it was to stay clothed during the war. There was the additional pressure that women were encouraged to look wonderful, and to wear bright colours to spite the enemy and keep the spirits of the nation up. Julie talked about coupons, siren suits, Make Do and Mend, parachute silk and the scarcity of stockings. Many of the predominantly female audience were of mature years and had some brilliant anecdotes regarding wartime fashion. One lady talked about how her school domestic science lessons were spent remodelling work overalls into daytime clothing. Another lady recounted that her father had sold stockings and other luxuries out of a suitcase. One customer ended up being his wife, and this lady’s Mum.

The Fashion on The Ration exhibition runs from 5th March until 31st August and tickets can be booked now. The exhibition features underwear made from silk escape maps, “onesies” worn in the air raid shelters, jewellery made from aeroplane parts, propaganda posters, military uniforms and patriotic scarves. If my children are reading this by any chance a ticket for this would be a wonderful birthday present, hint, hint!

Such a lovely day, and no, I really didn’t need to add anything to my wardrobe!

Market Trawling, Rocking Dog

Market Trawling

Retail Guru, Rocking Dog

Retail Guru

Best Window Goes To..,Rocking Dog

Best Window Goes To..

Real Live Rocking Dog Says Get Walking!

Walkies With RLR Dog, Rocking Dog

Walkies With RLR Dog

Real Live Rocking Dog pleads with you to get out walking this weekend! There’s nothing he likes better than a good bracing walk, especially walking somewhere new. Last weekend saw us returning to the Kennet and Avon canal. We walked from Bathampton through to Avoncliff, enjoying wildlife, witnessing the trials of anglers and evaluating barge interior design. Of course the walk was made even better by sitting canal side somewhat chillily with a hot drink and the most gorgeous home baked ginger cake, courtesy of the Angelfish cafe.

The only pitfall with canal walking is that it reawakens Andyman’s ambition to do a barge holiday! The thought of dealing with locks, rudders, and steering frankly terrifies me. Walking the canals of England ..yes, sailing them probably not.

Coastal walks are my favourite, especially Dorset and the Gower. I love that cheek chiselling wind and the feeling that psychological cobwebs really do get blown away! It won’t be long before we take to the road again with our dear little Pod.
Though tempting to return to the same tried and tested places we need to get exploring! Rye, Dungeness, Lindisfarne, St Ives and other yummy places to get blown about.

Have a truly lovely weekend, whatever you’re doing.

Lighting The Landscape, Rocking Dog

Lighting The Landscape

Barge Garden, Rocking Dog

Barge Garden

Holiday Home, Rocking Dog

Holiday Home

Rocking Dog Home Making Tips

Spruce With Cushions, Rocking Dog

Spruce With Cushions

Being pretty vintage myself I have over the years become more accomplished at home making. Here follows some of my favourite tips in creating a creative home on a budget.

For the last two decades I have kept little black books – predominantly Moleskines which store all sorts of information and inspiration. Travels, ancestry, museum postcards, copious notes about all manner of things and decorating notes. On the home front, I like to keep window measurements for each room. These are useful if stores such as John Lewis or Laura Ashley have sales of display curtains and blinds. My black book also contains mini mood boards/room schemes with paint samples, fabric snippets and magazine inspiration. It is great to return to the book to discover a paint colour when walls or woodwork need touching up. It is so easy to forget the paint used, especially when painting rooms in a variety of shades of white! No doubt in the age of technology, information can be stored on a phone or tablet…but I am a vintage dinosaur after all!

Trade skills. On occasions I have traded skills with friends. One friend made some fabulous bedroom curtains and a rocking ball skirt for my daughters prom in return for food for two grown up parties.

I am a great poker around in fabric remnant and wallpaper oddment bins! Again, Laura Ashley and John Lewis are good, together with small interior design shops. Some of the wallpapers I have purchased would normally retail at over £100, but I have paid a bargainous £5-£10 a roll. One roll is sometimes enough to do a feature wall, to line cupboards or to paper a tiny room. I managed to paper my lobby with gilded monkey Fornasetti paper for £5! Additionally I use pretty papers throughout the year for gift wrapping and as table runners for parties. As for the fabric remnant bin, small single display curtains sometimes end up in the JL remnant bin for around £5. The curtain can be deconstructed and made into a blind for a bathroom or made into a whole host of useful items (dressing up clothes for children, drawstring bags, cushions etc..). Like anything sometimes you can be lucky and others there’s not a thing to be had!

Somewhat ashamedly I am a self confessed paint snob, and there’s nothing more that I love than a Farrow and Ball paint chart!
When it came to painting the exterior of the house I wanted F&B’s Dead Salmon. Alas, the coffers were not that big! Therefore, we had the colour matched and mixed at Homebase in a Dulux Weathershield exterior paint. This proved to be at a fraction of the cost of the Farrow and Ball. To further save on costs we painted the house ourself, 90 litres and two coats, whilst scaling scaffolding it was a pretty epic summer.

Other paint tips are to permanent marker pen the paint lids with what the paint was used for, ceiling, lounge skirting boards. If you can psychologically bear it, store used paint tins upside down to prevent a skin forming.

If money is tight and you can’t decorate a room for the time being, give the room a really good spring clean, de-clutter, add a few well chosen but inexpensive accessories (a new throw, cushions etc..) and a vase of fresh flowers. It’s amazing how much better a room feels with sparkling clean windows and hoovered floors. Our bathroom needs a bit of an overhaul but for the time being I have given it a coat of paint ( F&B Stiffkey Blue ) and added some bold floral curtains which were previously hung in a bedroom. It certainly feels better.

More tips to follow in a future post, in the meantime have you any good tips to pass on? Please share them.

Little Black Book, Rocking Dog

Little Black Book

£5 Gilded Monkeys, Rocking Dog

£5 Gilded Monkeys

Vintage Treasure Hunting For Easter

Vintage Treasure, Rocking Dog

Vintage Treasure

Now is the time to look out for vintage treasure in readiness of Easter.

I love creating a Springtime tableau, with branches (Contorted Hazel and Pussy Willow being favourites), spring flowers in pretty antique jugs and a scattering of chocolate eggs and animals. These are supplemented by some pretty kitsch Easter rabbits and other odds and sods!

Seek out pretty antique cups to fill with speckled eggs and glorious tea plates to present Easter Biscuits and Hot Cross Buns. Pretty vintage embroidered and printed handkerchiefs can be used to wrap eggs and small gifts, tie with characterful ribbon or string. Hunt carefully for 50’s cardboard eggs and wicker baskets to fill with treats.

Charity shops are a good place to start your search as are vintage markets and fairs. My favourite is the Vintage and Handmade Jumble sale at Rangeworthy, nr Bristol. The next sale is up and coming on 21st March. As if the sale isn’t lovely enough there are teas and wonderful cakes served up by the friendly WI.

As a child I used to love the annual school trip at Easter. We’d be taken to Lewis’s (now Primark) in Bristol when we’d be escorted up the wooden escalators to the top of the building where we would be met by a menagerie of rabbits, chicks, lambs etc.. It all feels rather surreal now, in this age of consumerism, health and safety and contractable diseases!

In the 80’s we were lucky enough to live in Germany and they REALLY knew how to decorate for Easter. Houses, shops, cafe’s, churches and streets were enchantingly decorated with branches hung with decorated eggs and ornaments. One cafe in Kleve
at Easter time gave over floorspace to a huge perspex pen housing a mossy earthy mound. Decorated with daffodils, hyacinths and primroses there’d be an entertaining collection of fluffy chicks, ducklings and bunnies, delightful! Furthermore the shops would wrap purchases in seasonal paper embellished with curled ribbon.

So go in search of seasonal vintage treasures and buy pretty chocolate eggs and animals whilst stocks are plentiful. Lidl and TK Maxx have really pretty chocolate menageries!

Additionally have a Chocolat moment for Easter inspiration. Curl up with a foamy hot chocolate and be indulged!

Charming China, Rocking Dog

Charming China

Lidl Lamb!, Rocking Dog

Lidl Lamb!

Vintage Hanky Wrap, Rocking Dog

Vintage Hanky Wrap

The Garden Is Waking Up!

Spring Is Around The Corner, Rocking Dog

Spring Is Around The Corner

The garden is waking up and I wish I would wake up to the fact that I need to get digging!

How lovely to find flowers bursting into life. Some, like the little wild violets need to be looked for carefully. Their scent is immediately recognisable as a smell from my childhood. I remember caravan holidays in West Bay in Dorset with the little shop on site selling perfume scented with violets. The little green bottles were often decorated with pixies, and labels stating “A present from West Bay’.

There are many buds on the Japonica bushes and I hope that this in turn will lead to a good crop of autumnal fruit. It makes the most delectable blush coloured jelly which tastes wonderful with cold meat and poultry.

The clumps of croci remind me of a very happy and informative visit to an Umbrian Saffron farmer in October. Incredibly, 50,000-75,000 croci are required to produce the 70,000-200,000 threads for 450g saffron. This spice has been used for cooking, textile dying, divine offerings, perfumes and medicines throughout history. Cleopatra reportedly used saffron in her bath to make lovemaking more pleasurable. There is evidence to suggest that Saffron is beneficial in treating Major Depressive Disorder and to relieve symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome. Meanwhile on a culinary note I love Delia’s recipe for her Saffron Roast Potatoes!


Pretty, Rocking Dog


Innocent, Rocking Dog


Purple, Rocking Dog


Spring Awakening With Vintage Floribunda

Fabulous Faded Florals, Rocking Dog

Fabulous Faded Florals

Rocking Dog has been inspired by the lengthening days, bird song, burgeoning buds and spring bulbs. Hence I have been pulling out fabulous florals from my mountainous textile stash!

Vintage Sanderson, Laura Ashley and 50’s floral remnants have been sewn into gorgeous lined purses and drawstring bags. These little beauties would be perfect for stowing jewellery for travelling. Very recently I enjoyed an indulgent break away and i’m ashamed to say that my jewellery was bundled very ungraciously into a Sainsbury’s carrier bag! Realising that this may be an issue with other travellers, I sought a pretty and practical remedy. Lined with dainty vintage Peter Pan fabric, embellished with buttons from my bottomless button tin, and given carefully chosen ribbons, these bags and purses would grace any self respecting vanity case!

My photo’s feature some of my jewellery- not a diamond in sight i’m afraid! I am loving my green sequin pincushion style brooch which came back with me from Perugia. It travelled in the hold because I was so frightened about it being confiscated in my hand luggage. I also love the mad 60’s knitted lurex earrings, It takes confidence to wear them and many a time that confidence has sadly eluded me!

The Rough Amethyst brooch has a tale to tell. Andyman is a bit of a joker and on a particular birthday he presented me with a beautifully wrapped present. On unwrapping it I was somewhat terrified to find an I Phone box. I know that most normal people would think wow! how lovely. But no, all I could think was “help, I can’t cope with all this technology” and I became really panicked! Realising my distress Andyman said “open the box” …. inside this brooch. The relief was palpable! The brooch incidentally came from Clifton Rocks.

The lovely mosaic Rocking Dog brooch was commissioned by my daughter Sorrel, and made by the very talented Janine Nelson of Smashing Chintz. LOVE IT!

More inspired floral makes will be blossoming from the Rocking Dog sewing room soon.

Travel In Vintage Style, Rocking Dog

Travel In Vintage Style

The Whole Caboodle, Rocking Dog

The Whole Caboodle

I Phone Brooch!, Rocking Dog

I Phone Brooch!

Blousy Sanderson Rose, Rocking Dog

Blousy Sanderson Rose

Safely Stowed, Rocking Dog

Safely Stowed

Rose Studded Sanderson, Rocking Dog

Rose Studded Sanderson