Saturday, 12 April 2014

Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday was a couple of weeks ago here in UK, but I have been so busy making hand bags for our shop that I haven't had time to show you what my mother received. So let's put that right.

Now, my mother has a favourite colour... Cream. Coming a close second is beige, which is vying for the prize along with taupe. As you can imagine, this is the polar opposite to me with my love of colour. So I dutifully made something that breaks all my own rules, knowing that my Mum would love it.

This cushion is based on a pattern called Adele Heart, that is available to purchase on - I admit it, I was drawn to the rainbow of colours that are featured on the pattern for this heart! 

As ever with a bought pattern, I found that it didn't quite make what I wanted, so I had to add several extra rounds, repeating the popcorns pattern, to produce a cushion sized heart. I would also change the popcorn rounds so that they are worked from the back of the piece in order to produce fuller popcorns if I make this again. I'm not entirely sure why the pattern author hasn't done that. 

Having made two hearts, I made an extra well stuffed heart shaped cushion inner (my Mum loves extra fat cushions) then crocheted the two hearts together with slip stitch. Had I not been running out of time, I would have made the cover removable with buttons along the opening, but I was up against the clock on this project - good thing my Mum is not a spiller of things!

I finished off the cushion with a big cream flower (which I forgot to take a photo of - doh!) and a big vintage pearl button. I will take a photo of the cushion complete with its flower on my next visit to my parents' house and show you.

Lessons learned from this cushion? Always make popcorns from behind - I knew this even as I was following the pattern, and should have trusted my instincts... Make sure to double the time you expect it to take to make a gift.... And finally, sometimes, mother knows best. It does look really rather nice in plain cream. 

Yarn used was cream pure wool aran left over from a jumper I knitted a few years ago, hook size 4.5mm.

Keep up to date with Rachel and Pip
You can subscribe to our blog by cliking 'join this site' on the right hand side of this page near the top.
We are also on Facebook. See what's hot at Rachel and Pip Towers by liking us on Facebook - don't forget to add us to your newsfeed by hovering over 'liked' add selecting 'Get Notifications'.

Friday, 7 March 2014

We're back!

Hello, sorry for the radio silence for so long... I have been poorly. But I am on the mend now, and I have exciting news. Rachel and Pip will soon be opening an online shop - only small, but bright and colourful!

While we've been away from the blog, we have been working on some new projects. Well, perhaps I should say, I've been working on new projects under the ever watchful eye of Mr Pip, who is as bouncy as ever (when he's not sunning himself and falling asleep).

The new shop is taking some time in the planning, but here's a taste of what is to come...

Flower Power cushion - 50x50 cm.

Bora Bag - big handbag/shopper, opening 32".

Lots of new fabrics, yarns and upcyclable goodies are sitting in the studio, and my sketchbook is filling up fast. I am not neglecting the crochet projects either.

Rainbow round cushion - feather filled, approx 18" diameter.

Right now, I am focusing on creating new and interesting stock for my shop (which is taking some time!), but I am also working on some inspiring designs with patterns to share. Normal service will be resumed shortly.
If you can't wait that long, why not drop in on us at our Facebook page to see what's brewing at Rachel and Pip HQ?

Monday, 9 September 2013


When I discovered decal transfer paper I was like...

I got the idea for my mass labelling project from The Painted Hive. And I've got to say, I absolute love it. Had a great time making labels that could go on glass jars. So all the tea jars and dried food jars got labelled. This is how...

What you need:

  Decal transfer paper - I got mine from Amazon
  Nitroacrylic spray (transparent) - again I got it on Amazon
  Glass kilner jars - I got mine from Ikea

How to do it:

1. Print your label text onto the decal paper

2. Spray the paper with the Nitroacrylic spray - hold it at arms lenth and make sure you don't get any runs or you end up with a bubbly label.

Keep your Pip-squeaks out of the room while you spray because it's heady stuff!

3. Allow the spray to dry a bit so you don't blow it into waves, then use a hairdryer to dry it out completely and get hot. I found that using the lowest heat setting and the slowest setting then working my way up to full power was the best. You need to keep blowing it hot for a minute.

4. Cut out your labels.

If you are labelling small jars it's best to cut the decal label small so that it doesn't bubble and crease with the curve of the jar.

5. Put the decal labels into a bowl of water and leave for 30 seconds

6. peal the decal away from the backing paper

7. Stick the decal on your jar. I used my thumbs to spread out the decal and make it stright, and remove the excess water. 

 Use kitchen paper to remove any more water on the jar

8. Cook the jars

For 15 minutes

9. Fill your jar with goodies

10. On the bigger kilner jars I store my dry foods I included my favourite recipe on the decal


One of my passions is finding little treasures I can rescue, and rescued treasures don't come more rescued than upcycled things. 

For the past few years I've had an old butchers block/kitchen trolley that has had numerous stages of life... Firstly I bought it new (and cheap) from Ikea and had it in my kitchen in my old house. When I moved here it became redundant and took on a new phase of life as a potting shed table. The weather slowly crept in and it started looking a little worse for wear so it entered phase 3 and I chopped it in half and turned the bottom half (the shelves, wheels and legs) into a shoe rack, painted it and added a little cushion and it kept my shoes in order for some time. That left me with a sort of table/bench in the garden with two drawers under the table top. Again it got battered by the weather and the top of the bench warped and split in the lovely west country rain, so I rescued the drawers and had a little think. And this is what happened next.

First I took the drawers apart. This kind of happened for me when I took the drawers out! The joints had got the weather in them so they kind of fell apart really, but it made painting them a lot easier!

 Where they had got wet the wood was quite blackened. They needed 3 coats of white undercoat to cover the stains.

When the blackened wood was covered completely, I put the drawers back together, and glued the joints, then painted the insides orange. My favourite colour at the moment! :-)

Masking tape became my best friend while I was painting the insides!

Last of all was the job of hanging the drawers on the wall. I managed to drill holes in the tiled wall without breaking any tiles (phew!) and used joining strips and small L-brackets to join the drawers together and strengthen those dodgy joints. Then hung them on the wall using mirror plates.

Now I finally have a bit more space in the cupboards and plenty of room for my vast tea collection. I think these turned into an enormous tea caddy rather well.

What an improvement on this...


Oh, and in case you are wondering, the shoe rack has moved outside now and is a sort of bench again, because I found this fantastic cupboard for my shoes - good thing I have small feet! :-)

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Once in a blue moon...

Yes, it's a blue moon - the one we are told things happen only the once in, but which turns out to describe the second full moon in a 4 week cycle. As the saying suggests though, they come around but infrequently, and if today is anything to go by, I say THANK GOODNESS FOR THAT!

Thankyou to Michael Rhyne for this photo - it's amazing isn't it?

I was up bright and early and full of creative beans, and I also felt inspired to do some 'finishing off' - this should have been my clue that the wisest action at such times is to crawl back under the duvet until tomorrow. Like all good creative types I always have lots of work in progress, and many things which never quite make it out of the work in progress basket. My first job of the day was to tackle one of these.

I stitched, very carefully and lovingly, a beautiful sampler in my favourite colour, red. I did the stitching, uh hum <cough>, in 2011... It has been languishing in many a to-do list to get this sampler framed. After all, I did spend about four months sewing it. It is pretty big and very complex, guaranteed to be a test for your eyesight and your patience. It was done by way of a graph thingy (I'm sure there's a proper embroidery term for this, but I don't know it! Oh, hang on, turns out it's a chart), which I bought from The Historical Sampler Company. Just to complicate things a little more, I opted for using some rather lovely irish linen instead of the nice simple Aida suggested by the chart designers. They may have had a point there!

So, I've been meaning to send this to the picture framers, but pennies are a little tight and there always seems to be a bit more month left after the budget has been blown (mostly in yarn shops!), so I decided I'd do it myself. I mean, how hard can it be? I've been carrying the dimensions around in my handbag for months, and found one in Ikea that, whilst being a little bit larger, would do the trick nicely. Then I was told it needed to be mounted on acid free mounting board. Ah, a little fly in the ointment.

Then last week I was in Bristol and popped into a shop known locally as Wilcos (Wilkinsons) - I'd never been in there before and so had a field day buying all the folders and post its I would need for the coming study year (OK, for the rest of my life would be nearer the point), and then I discovered they do cheap picture frames... And one EXACTLY the right size (give or take a centimetre or two). So in the shopping bag it went, only to languish for another week while I built up the courage to have a bash.

OK, so it turns out the frame is cheap because the glass is actually 'glass' (aka plastic) but, beggars can't be choosers... After all, if I could choose I'd have a solid oak frame made and mounted by a professional!

I used the mount they supplied to sew the embroidery over - I've seen this in books and it looks just like lacing up a corset. Not that I have ever laced up a corset, but I've watched enough Merchant Ivory films to know ALL about it, and I imagine it's kind of similar. The first hints that things were not going according to plan began when I couldn't thread my needle... Oh, it turned out I was trying to thread a pin! (lol)

Into the frame it went and BAZINGA, I had a somewhat disappointing grand reveal... It's only blooming wonky. So once in blue moon, I am inspired to have a go at something that surely, can't be that hard - only to find that actually, it is. But hey, I have done another once in a blue moon thing... I've finished a long term project! That's got to be worth a Blue Moon Hurrah.

(oops it looks like that 'glass' is rather reflective!)

While we're on the subject of Blue Moon Disasters... I managed to make a total BMD in the kitchen today too. I had a sudden craving for Falafel after someone mentioned Berlin and Food in their blog. When I went to Berlin - around the same time as the famous wall was coming down - I ate endless Falafel, and so it thus, the Falafel Capital of Europe in my mind. Well my falafel were falfelling awful. I don't know what went wrong but I believe they ought to have been renamed Fa-LAUGH-el.

And those pictures are of the best ones! The rest were faluaghel goo paste. Needless to say my gills are now feeling a little green (well, there was nothing else for dinner!) and I am now on the ultimate quest for a fool-proof (or should that be Rachel-proof?) falafel recipe.

Happy Blue Moon folks, and thank goodness they only come once in the proverbial ;-)

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Mandala cushion

I was recently commissioned to make a gift for a couple's 40th wedding anniversary. That all sounds a bit posh really. Actually my Mum asked me to make her friend a cushion - that's more like the truth! She was looking through some of my crochet magaznes and found a mandala design that she loved. 

I thought a mandala made the perfect gift for a wedding anniversary - especially a 40th! - because the mandala symbolises unity and love. (altogether now - ahhhhhh)

Only problem was it was too small to be a useful cushion... So - infinitely confident of my abilities - I was asked by Mum to make it substantially bigger.

I used the pattern in the magazine, which seemed rather familiar... Turns out it is pretty similar to Made in K-Town's Little Spring Mandala. I had to ad-lib the colour repeats, which took a bit of fiddling to ensure it was more or less flat - too many stitch increases and you have something that resembles the skirt of a whirling dervish! Actually it ended up being a bit frilly, but I think I pulled it off with the fat cushion inner.

I backed the cushion with a plain round back in stripes that repeat the colours on the front.

The cushion got a bright pink liner - chosen so that it shows through the rather open design on the front - and some pink buttons to make it a removeable cover (the lady this was destined for has a dog!),added a scalloped edge and hey presto the cushion is complete.

I'd like to say it was a doddle... well the bit where I had a pattern was, the rest of it was rather frustrating as I kept having to unpick it and do less stitches. I think I need some more practice before I launch myself into the world of pattern deisgn!

Pip would dearly have liked to have this cushion for himself, but had to make do with the old manky one on the sofa, much to his chagrin. Yes, that's Pips chagrinned face.

The really great part of this project (other than finally finishing it) was to hear the response from Mum's friend - she loved it. Her husband, said that he's not allowed to touch the cushion and can no longer sit in his favourite chair, because that's the cushion's chair! I had to laugh at that.

For the cushion I used a pattern from Simply Crochet (issue 7), DROPS Paris cotton yarn and a 4mm hook. The feather cushion inner was from Design-A-Cushions. And lots of patience ;-)

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Two men required...

The time has come for me to sort out my stash. The studio has increasingly become a dumping ground for my accidental yarn purchases, and consequently I don't know what I have or where it's kept. I have also got to sort out my desk ready for the start of my next module at the Open University. So I've been to the dreaded hell hole that is IKEA and bought, well, lots...

So, IKEA, you say flat pack costs less, wastes less space and is generally going to save the planet hey? So why the enormous box for this tiny packet of screws and dowels?

OK, I'm all laid out and ready to go. Oh, in the instructions it says this is a two man job. Well, I'm on my own here as I don't think Pip counts as a man in this situation... This should be fun!

Oops - a work related injury already, as I tried to open the box of screwdrivers.

How hard can it be?

So far, so good.

This is easy. Two men? I don't think so.

OK, so being two people would be kind of handy about now...

And now...

Quick quality inspection by Pip. Hahahaha it looks like he's taking the credit for hammering the backboard to the bookcase. He's SO clever my Pip.

And I'm done!

Oh good god, I didn't realise the stash was THAT big. I had anticipated also putting my crochet and knitting books on this shelf... AND my sewing machines.

I'm pretty darned well pleased with this. I have been scouring the second hand shops for different coloured penguin titles to frame like this for years - finally they are all done and put into box frames, and I put up a picture shelf to display them.

And all this started because of that AMAZING retro orange Anglepoise lamp, bought from the lovely Sophie at Pineapple Retro. It goes pretty well with the fab leather swivel chair that used to belong to my friend way back in the day when she still lived in the UK and was hair-dressing for a living. I LOVE my chair :-) In fact, I love my studio now too!