This Saturday I had some time with my son at home. My husband took my daughter to a party, so with just the two of us in the house, we had fun painting side by side on the kitchen table. We both share a love of drawing so it was a real joy to spend this time with him. I used my son’s drawings in the china transfer project in my first book and both of my children’s drawings appear in my new book on the wish board and the embroidered cushion projects. The ink drawings I made are reminiscent of designs I used to produce as a textile designer. I still love this type of free form sketching with paint and I wanted to show him some techniques. I had bought the Spring daffodils from my local florist the day before and he liked the idea of painting them using my Chinese brushes and just black ink.
I love the simplicity of jet black ink on cartridge paper, the marks, splatters, drips and dribbles that come when working quickly and freely. If you like this post, you may also like these floral paintings.
We had an hour or so drawing, chatting and sharing a love of creativity. He produced some really lovely flower paintings, they are all his in the photo above. My favourite is the ink illustration of the paint brush he was holding to create it – his own little joke.
This will be added to the little recess in the kitchen used to display the children’s art.
Is there a shared creative hobby or interest your children and you share?
Recently I contributed to a little post for my lovely friend Elisa Rathje for her tried and true series. Elisa’s blog Appleturnover is full of “stories of the pleasures of the handmade, the perennially useful object, the things your grandmother taught you, the rediscovered solutions, the skills you might have had one hundred years ago.” It got me thinking… what single item would I consider tried and true? I have lots of things I rely on or have used for years, but after some thought one item stood out. An item that has been constantly with me for years and years – my stainless steel rule.
I have a love of rulers. New and old, metal and wood, from small ones like these to huge ones, like the vintage surveyors’ staffs I display in my living room (which you can see on the cover of Decorate), I seem to have amassed quite a collection over the years. I love their practicality and purpose as well as the graphic quality they possess.
It all began with my 12 inch/30cm stainless steel ruler. I bought it because it was on the list of must-haves sent through from the art college I was about to start at after I left school. I’ve managed to keep it and use it all the time. I also have a one metre long steel ruler, which I use frequently for larger scale work. It helped trim down paper designs at art college, was used at my final degree show in textiles at Edinburgh College of Art and all the way through my professional textile designing days. It’s been used to trim down mood boards for photo shoots and whilst making projects for my books. It works as well now as it did when I first bought it many years ago. Unlike cheap plastic ones or wooden ones, which dink at the edges after a scalpel blade has sheered off parts of the sides, my steel rule is still straight and true.
Vintage rulers always catch my eye. If I see one at a flea market or car boot sale I will snap it up and add it to my ever-expanding collection. Many are hinged and a little rusty, so not as practical, but still look beautiful lined up on my windowsill for me to admire in front of my desk. You can see more of my collection in a previous post here.
A steel rule is an investment that will last a lifetime and the patina gained over the years simply adds to its character. It is a tool that I would be lost without.
Do you have something tried and true?
If you love homemade stories do have a look at Elisa’s blog – Appleturnover. Thank you Elisa! x
With Mother’s Day around the corner I thought I would share a simple idea that makes a perfect gift for mum – the ever-popular lavender bag. These little bags are simple to make, smell gorgeous and will add a but of fun and colour to any drawer or wardrobe. Who wouldn’t like to receive a homemade bundle of these?
All you need to do is cut two same-sized square pieces of fabric (mine are about 12cm wide), place them back-to back inside out and sew them together almost all the way around. Then turn them the right way out and fill with dried lavender through the gap you have left open. Sew the gap up and there you have it! I especially like Liberty print fabrics for lavender bags but linens, stripes and spots work well too. You only see one side facing up when in your draw so use your favourite fabric on one side with a plain reverse. (And yes, that’s a little Liberty suitcase too!)
Use remnants of fabric you have at home and play around. Match the sides or contrast them, try patterned with plain, bright with muted. Whatever you fancy or think the lucky recipient may like. All of the lavender bags I photographed here were made with offcuts of fabric and donated ribbons and lavender. They were made by myself and other mum’s from my son’s school class, to sell as gifts at the school fair to help raise money. They are a variation of the project in my book – The Homemade Home – which has a full, step-by-step illustrated guide if you would like clear instructions on how to make them.
The bags below are my favourites and I ended up buying them back at the school fair as I couldn’t bear to part with them. I made them with a small piece cut from a length of gorgeous Liberty fabric that was given to me by my friend Holly Becker. It was the fabric we chose as the table runner at our table styling demonstration with Leslie Shewring, for Holly’s Decorate book launch at the Liberty store in London.
A bundle of three lavender bags, made by you for your mum, tied up with a pretty ribbon and placed in a simple gift box with a personalised tag. A sweet gift that costs little but means a lot.
Happy Mother’s Day everyone.
As I was finishing my winter flower post and looking at the hellebores that I had sketched with my camera, I had an urge to paint these beautiful flowers. I had been wanting to paint for a while and it gave me just the inspiration I needed. So this weekend I dusted off my acrylic paints, brushes, palette knife and palette and spent a few hours playing with paint. I had a few plain canvases around the house that I had previously painted with household emulsion in various shades of greys and greens, that I knew would work with my room decor, and used them as my base. I painted quickly and instinctively, rather than sketching anything on the canvas with pencil first, as I wanted to keep it free and use loose brush marks to make the shapes of the flowers.
As a full time textile designer in a busy design studio, I was always painting and drawing flowers in different styles and using different mediums such as ink, watercolour, acrylic, stitching and embroidery. That was a few years ago now but it felt good to get the paints out once again. The great thing with acrylic on canvas is that you can add to it later or paint over it and start again if you like, it just adds to the texture of the canvas.
I couldn’t resist photographing some of the flowers on the palette where I mixed the colours and on my desk – the splats, drips and marks making interesting combinations of colour and texture.
As well as the canvas, I painted on handmade paper and I also stretched fresh cartridge paper on a board and used water for a floaty effect.
As the natural base colours reflected my home I knew they would sit happily in my room, with the hellebores positioned next to them picking up the colour palette.
I now have so many ideas having painted this weekend I think I’ll need to stock up next time I’m at the art shop!
This is a simple idea I had that is easy to do and gave a result that I found pleasing – a candle made with common tea lights and a vintage tart tin.
On my monthly car boot sale trips I had been buying various old baking trays, pots and jars for use as props in my Sugar/Spice shoot with Uli Schade. After the shoot I left them out on display in my studio to see if they inspired any ideas for what to do with them, rather than hide them away in one of my cupboards.
I love the rich patina of the old, weathered cooking equipment and and the implied history this gives them. How old are they and how many times have they been used? Who were the cooks that used them? What did they bake and who was it for? These kind of questions always get my mind whirring imagining the answers to the life they had led.
As I was looking in one of my kitchen cupboards one day I saw a bag of Ikea tea light candles and that sparked the idea to turn these vintage tins into candles.
I took three of the Ikea tea lights and pushed the solid wax blocks out of their thin metal casings and then pulled out the wicks by their metal disks. I placed the wax cylinders next to each other in one of the vintage tart tins, then placed it on the smallest of my gas cooker rings and melted them on a very low heat. When they had fully melted I turned off the flame, placed the wicks with the metal discs at the bottom into the desired position, leaving equal space between them, and then left it to cool. The wax hardened and I was left with a new simple candle.
This idea could be extended to a whole tray of muffin tins with one melted tea light per compartment to make a great centrepiece to a table. The base may need felt, cork or wood under it to protect the surface it sits on and, as with all flames, never leave them unattended.
When the candles have been used up, the tin can be refilled in the same way to make another candle to enjoy.
Simple little lights to warm up these cool, dark winter evenings.
As Christmas is almost upon us I wanted to share the last few photographs of my collaboration with photographer Uli Schade. This is another simple idea to update plain glass baubles.
We finely shredded pages from an old book using a guillotine to cut between the lines of printed text, creating slivers of paper that we simply coiled into the baubles after removing the top. You could use scissors or a craft knife with a metal ruler on a cutting board to cut strips too and tweezers can help position them within the bauble. If you don’t have an old book then you could photocopy or print out your favourite carol or a passage from a Christmas-themed story book instead.
I also collected a few natural objects from the woodland floor on a walk with my family: pine cones, acorns and dried leaves that I sprayed a matt off white colour as additional festive decorations.
Wrapping gifts in a creative way makes a gift feel extra special for the lucky recipient and will look wonderful on display in your home until to is time to give the gift. Beautiful old metal cake tins like this one make wonderful, unique boxes for gifts with their tarnished silver patina. Keep an eye out for them at flea markets and car boot sales.
First I wrapped around the box with cotton ribbon. I then wrapped a twig in strips of Liberty fabric, attached with double sided tape. Beads were glued in place and stitched on like berries. Japanese paper was cut into leaf shapes and folded to imitate the texture of real leaves and a sprayed leaf was added too.
And that just about wraps up my creative Christmas collaboration with Uli Schade. We hope you like the ideas and the photographs and have fun making this holiday season.
Sania Pell is a freelance interior stylist, creative director and consultant based in London. She is a Contributing Stylist at Elle Decoration magazine, with whom she has worked for over 18 years, and is known for bringing a unique aspect to photographic shoots for national publications, leading international brands and retailers as well as style consultancy for top architecture practices and property development companies. She is the author of best-selling book The Homemade Home and The Homemade Home for Children. A trained, former textile designer, Sania is also involved in many multi-disciplinary creative projects.
To enquire about commissioning Sania for commercial or editorial projects, please use the contact form.