Archive | October, 2010

Cement Pearls

20 Oct

Modeled on classic pearl stud earrrings, but only $35 (Canadian), which is about £21.

Made by Toronto-based Metsa Design and seen on Seesaw Design’s blog.


Artificial Flowers

15 Oct

Let me preface this by saying that I always prefer fresh flowers to artificial. Always.

But I’ve been thinking about artificial flowers a bit more kindly today.

It all started this morning when I was tidying the kitchen while listening to Woman’s Hour. Jenni Murray did a feature about artificial flowers, whether they’re as good as the real thing, etc., and about recent trends in really gorgeous silk flowers which are making them a bit more popular these days.

So it started me thinking about how this isn’t a recent trend at all.

I used to live in Providence, Rhode Island, once home to Cal-Art, an artificial flower company. Cal-Art was founded as The California Artificial Flower Company in the early ’20s by Michael D’Agnillo, an Italian immigrant. It was in Rhode Island, so I’m not sure why he named it after California, but perhaps that had a bit of cachet at the time. Originally, D’Agnillo created paper and fabric flowers for use in shop window displays but, as they became more and more popular, he started selling his flowers to retail customers. By the ’30s, his company had grown so much that in 1939 he had the gorgeous art deco Cal-Art building constructed on Reservoir Avenue:

During its heyday in the ’40s, Cal-Art had extensive landscaped gardens, including a brook and a duck pond. Plants and flowers were imported from all over the world to be grown in Cal-Art’s gardens and to be used as living models for the paper and silk flowers D’Agnillo’s designers produced.   

In the ‘5os, Cal-Art began producing plastic flowers and it was all downhill from there.

I’m not sure if the company is still in existence but, luckily, the building is – although I believe it now houses a host of medical and legal offices. A far cry from the grand flower exhibition rooms that were once there.

And then, to top things off, just this afternoon I saw today’s post on the Café Cartolina blog about making paper flowers! I love coincidences like that!

You can find the original paper flower tutorials for six different flowers, including these two stylish lovelies, on Knuckle Salad:


Sheep on Savile Row

14 Oct

As part of Wool Week, a flock of sheep could be seen grazing in the middle of Mayfair in London. How splendid!

Photo from The Huffington Post.

Wool Week is an initiative, led by Prince Charles, to encourage people to buy and wear British wool, rather than cheap synthetics. According to Metro:

Wool Week is the start of a five-year campaign to make us fall in love again with a fibre we take for granted. The Campaign for Wool, launched by the Prince of Wales, aims to promote its beauty and manifold benefits. In a world increasingly invaded by disposable synthetics, wool is durable, sustainable, versatile and biodegradable.

Lots of London shops got in on the woolly action by devoting their window displays to lovely woollen garments, from Monsoon to Selfridge’s to Liberty to Hardy Amies, the Queen’s Savile Row couturier.

You can read more about Wool Week and its goals here.

My knitting teacher, the lovely Julia from Knit Wits in Penzance, was there giving knitting demonstrations. In addition to running Knit Wits, Julia and her husband produce wool for their Cornish Organic Wool company. This week, their Highgrove wool was on display at Norton & Sons in Savile Row.

You can read more about it all in Julia’s blog.

Yvette Jelfs Hats

13 Oct

Yvette Jelfs makes the most fabulous hats and, on top of that, is an all-around really lovely person. I did one of her millinery workshops a couple of years ago and had such fun.

We all tried on loads of hats in different styles and she gave us tips about which ones suited us best. I was very pleased to be told that BIG HATS were good on me.

We then tried our hand at making fascinators, but mine was a bit of a disaster. Still, it was all great fun.

I have one of Yvett’s capalene hats – like this but in pale blue:

But now I have my eye on her crown insignia (that’s her logo) Trilby:

Or, even better, how about this:

Will someone please get married so I can have an excuse to buy it?

When I am in charge, everyone who is LOVELY will get a BIG HAT.
– Edward Monkton

Cait’s Cookies

10 Oct

My friend Cait is the Queen of the Cookies. Here are her Halloween cookies:

And a close-up:

You don’t even want to know what she does at Easter!

I wish I had a fraction of the cookie-decorating talent she has. Please help me convince her to turn this into a business!

Cut it, Fold it: Build it with Paper

6 Oct

The V&A Museum of Childhood has a new exhibition starting this Saturday featuring architectural paper models. The nearly 200 examples that make up the exhibition are from the collection of Bob Freidus, who has over 20,000 of them, including some from the mid-19th century.

These two, the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty, are both French and date from the 1890s:

I was obsessed with these as a child, although mine weren’t nearly as beautiful as those gorgeous 19th century ones. My first effort was the Empire State Building, complete with a paper King Kong climbing up it. I also did the Chrysler Building and the Capitol Building. I’m still not sure why my mother trusted me with an X-Acto knife at that age, but I’m glad she did. My models gave me hours and hours of pleasure.

Now I’m beginning to think I should have kept them intact, rather than cutting them up. I wonder how much vintage ’70s paper models go for these days?

The exhibition is on until 9 January 2011 and admission is free. The Museum of Childhood is on Cambridge Heath Road in London.

I’m just hoping I can squeeze a visit in before January!

Vintage Sewing Bits and Bobs

4 Oct

Aren’t these pretty?

I’m not sure where they came from, but I have a feeling it was from my husband’s late grandmother’s sewing box.

I particularly like the old-fashioned pin tin with its design that would still look modern today.

Things like this are nearly (but not quite) enough to convince me I ought to take up sewing!


1 Oct

I’ll admit that I conduct most of my correspondence with friends and family by e-mail or over the telephone.

But today I was intrigued by For Books’ Sake and its mention of letter-writing events at the Freeword Flow Festival in London. There was a letter-writing workshop this afternoon followed by a letter-writing club night this evening. Do we really need to be taught how to write letters? Are we that out of touch with pen and paper?

It seems so.

Gone are the days when, as Jane Austen wrote in Pride and Prejudice, “the arrival of letters was the first grand object of every morning’s impatience.”

So make yourself a cup of tea, get out your best fountain pen, dig up that beautiful stationery I know you have hidden at the back of a desk drawer, and write a letter to someone you love.