Autumn Project

Autumn is my favourite season. Nothing could be nicer than wrapping up warm and as the sun begins to set, sitting aside the fire pit as the evening chill seeps into my bones. A tasty bowl of home made soup cupped in my hands.

As the leaves begin to turn and acorns and pine cones crunch beneath my feet as I step out for my daily walk, a project springs to mind ……one I have intended doing every autumn for a number of years, but never seem to get round to making…… firelighters for the fire pit!

I had already collected some herbs from the garden, which had dried nicely. The intention to make some moth chasers for my shop and possibly some bouquet garni sachets. This left me with all the dried stalks which smell so sweet it’s a shame not to make use of them.

These along with some old gnarled pieces of branches and twigs are perfect to add in the centre… but what do we add to make them burn well? Candle wax. Using up any old ends of burnt down candle.

It took some experimenting to successfully make these with the minimum mess! Good preparation – everything to hand, and using OLD or redundant kitchen equipment.

I found this vintage Le Creuset pot at the back of my cupboard – I had totally forgotten about! Also an old ladle I’d purchased at a flea market in Amsterdam some years back. Both perfect for the task, along with……. garden secateurs, scissors, garden twine, parchment paper, an old glass container slightly larger than the pan to melt the wax in, if you do not want to melt it directly into the pan). A selection of dried stalks, pine cones and twigs.

I found the best twigs for me were dried thyme, as the were already bent and twisted, which meant easier to use for wrapping. Any other herb stalks such as rosemary or lavender will work too and all add a nice smell as they burn, but any twigs will work.

Another suggestion I found was to use cotton wool balls for the centre of the lighters. I did experiment with these too, but ideally I prefer to use the natural products from the ‘forest floor’ and following my trial will for future making. Also oils can be used to ignite the flame, but I found this rather messy and unlike the wax which solidifies when it cools, the oil obviously remain liquid!

To begin making ……

Wrap a length of garden twine around each cotton wool ball/cone/ twig, long enough to tie securely and leave a length to handle and tie to drip dry. Break up the wax into small pieces as best you can. Either place directly into the pan (only if unwanted for other purposes!) or fill with hot water and place the candle pieces in a glass bowl that can sit above without touch the water.

Stand on the heat to boil the water and melt the wax. Once the wax is ready, take one at a time by the string & dip into the melted wax. This is VERY hot so take care!

Once coated lift by the string and allow to drip for a moment back into the container. Place on a piece of parchment paper. I transferred mine to hang to help set more quickly.

The pine cones look as though they are covered with snow as the wax sets!

Once dry, cover with the layers of twigs and dried leaves, whatever you have selected. Tie securely with twine…. and there you have it!

Do remember these are for OUTDOOR USE ONLY.

On reflection, as mentioned I prefer to use the wood and pine cones for the centre, although the cones I used were too big and I wish I had used the smaller ones. Only because they are harder to wrap!

I found these smaller cones after making which would have been ideal!

Happy crafting!……………….

Memories from 2019…. a trip to Brockhampton, Herefordshire, England

It’s hard to believe it’s been six months since we entered this surreal period of our lives….

It has affected each and every one of us in some way or another, whether devastatingly or mildly. I hope that for those of your reading this, the latter.

I’ve been looking back over visits to places I had made last year with happy memories, also thinking how much we have taken for granted the way we led our lives.

One trip I thoroughly enjoyed was to Brockhampton. An ancient estate nestled in the dramatic Herefordshire hills owned by the National Trust. It has been utilised since the early Middle Ages and features a wealth of interesting features such as a ruined Norman chapel. Despite being so old, the manor has changed little over the centuries.

“Prepare yourself mentally for sewing. Think about what you are going to do. Never approach sewing with a sigh, or lackadaisically. Good results are difficult when indifference predominates. Never try to sew with a sink full of dirty dishes or beds unmade. When there are urgent housekeeping chores, do those first so your mind is free to enjoy your sewing…….”

– Advice from a Singer sewing machine manual dated 1949 –

In the main hall there was a demonstration of beautiful musical instruments, one in particular being played by a musician dressed for the occasion and period of time.

Limnerslease The home of GF & Mary Watts

I mentioned in a post earlier this year, a trip I made to Watts Gallery situated in Surrey in the village of Compton, close to Guildford. The gallery houses the work of the famous sculptor & artist George F Watt and his wife Mary, also renowned for her own artistic work. Since then I had the pleasure of visiting Limnerslease, which was their autumn and winter home.

*The name Limnerslease is unusual, but the word ‘Limner’ is old English for artist, and ‘Lease’ is to glean hope for the future.  The new house included a large studio for George, as well as a studio for Mary.  Much of the interior was designed and created by Mary. 

When George died in 1904, Mary made Limnerslease her main residence and following her death in 1938 the house was separated into 3 separate dwellings.The Watts Gallery Trust has now secured the east wing of the house.  Importantly this is where George’s studio is located, so the Trust is working on a restoration to turn the house back into the residence that George and Mary would recognise.  The Trust continues to look into securing the remainder of the house.*

(*information taken from the Watts Gallery website where you can arrange to have a guided tour of this amazing property.)

It was a chilly morning in February when I made my visit, yet the moment I walked into the house I felt warmed by the sheer cosiness. The decor with its rich vibrant colour was so inviting.


Stepping from the dark hallway we were lead by the tour guide through to a bright and sunny room where light was cascading through the long windows. Again full of colour.


The room was sparsely furnished with Arts & Crafts furniture, and your eyes were drawn to a very colourful rug in the centre of the floor, which appeared to echo the plastered designs which once embellished the alcove in this room.

DSC08195The original plasterwork can be seen in the photograph below and the remains of its existence can still be seen today.

Beautifully carved sliding panelled doors separate the the hallway from the living room.


The plastered ceilings all have a story to tell ….but you will need to go on the tour to find out more!

This is only a taste of what there is to see at Limnerslease. I would highly recommend booking on a tour. Once you have finished the tour, head to the Mary Watts Studios to see more of her work amazing work and if you haven’t viewed the Watts Chapel yet aim for there too!

Watts Gallery are holding an open day on Sunday 16 September to view  the gallery and  studios from  11am – 5pm. Take advantage of this free day and whilst there why not book a return visit for a tour of Limnerslease! Follow this link for further information.


National Tweed Day & The Tweed Run



Being a tweed lover, its only natural that I will post about National Tweed Day! The event is observed every year on the 3rd of April.  Apparently it has various origins. Some believe it is celebrated to recognise senator-turned-crook William Tweed of New York City.  He was born on April 3, 1823.  He died in 1878 in jail, after being caught stealing millions dollars from NYC public money. ………Others believe that National Tweed Day celebrates the tweed fabric.

As you can imagine I prefer to believe the latter!


…and in celebration!

The Tweed Run held in London this year on Saturday 5 May will be a spectacle to witness! Around 750-1000 cyclists, immaculately clad in tweed, descend on Regent Street. It will be a sight to behold as a sea of tweed rolls down the major thoroughfares of London. You can view pictures from last years London event here.


Below images of the Tweed Run in various countries.








The History of Tweed……

Tweed’s history begins centuries ago on the Isles of the Scottish Outer Hebrides where islanders made fabric to battle the harsh winters.  It was hand-woven by crofters using their own wool. They called it Clò Mór in Gaelic – ‘The big cloth’.

By the end of the 18th century it had started to become a staple industry for islanders – they started exporting cloth to the Scottish mainland.

Twill-weave                            Photo:

A twill weave – tweel in Scots. Mistaken for Tweed by a London Merchant who assumed a Trade Name associated with the River Tweed running through the Scottish Borders.

Celebrate National Tweed Day by wearing something tweed!

You will always find tweed accessories in my Etsy shop!

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Watts Gallery, Surrey – dedicated to the work of George Fredric Watts & Mary Watts

One of my favourite places to visit in Surrey is Watts Gallery located near the village of Compton.


George Fredric Watts (1817-1904)  was widely considered to be the greatest painter of the Victorian era. He was a portraitist, sculptor, landscape painter and symbolist.


He studied only theoretically at the Royal Academy schools, having been apprentice to the studio of sculptor, William Behnes, when he was just 10 years old. His was a natural talent, recognised by his father at this young age. In later years he said that he could not remember a time when he did not draw. His first picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy when he was just 20 years old and he continued to exhibit there throughout his life.



images-8During his travels round Europe he visited Paris, then traveled south through France ending his travels in Italy. This period of travel and discovery was hugely influential on Watts. His love of Italy earned him the nickname ‘Signor’, which stayed with him into old age. He earned the title England’s Michelangelo.

In the 1880s Watts built a gallery extension onto his studio home at Little Holland House, Kensington, and opened it to the public from 2 to 6pm every weekend. He believed that art should be accessible to all. This was reflected in this project and in his support of schemes that took art into the poor areas of London through exhibitions and the creation of new galleries.

During this time Watts painted some of his most memorable and iconic images, including Hope (pictured below), which inspired artists and thinkers internationally, and Mammon, his great protest against the destructive motivating force of greed that was prevalent in society.

b84520cfe5fcc741efcc9a73085ddbd8‘Hope’ – one of my favourite paintings at Watts gallery

In 1886, at the age of 69, Watts married his second wife (32 years his junior) Scottish potter and designer Mary Seton Fraser-Tytler. 


You can find out more information about Mary Watts here.

In 1889, to escape from the the London smogs which were causing health problems for Watts. George & Mary decided to seek a winter retreat from their Holland Park house and studio and stayed with friends in Compton. They quickly decided that this picturesque village nestled in the Surrey hills would make the ideal location for their own autumn/winter residence.

53f79bf015a706c7c57b0ecf0260ff7bThey leased land at Compton and commissioned Arts & Crafts architect Sir Ernest George to build their home Limnerslease pictured above. You can book a tour the house today via the Watts Gallery website 

Limnerslease was very much an artists’ home. Its name comes from ‘Limner’ — the Old English word for artist — and ‘lease’ — to glean hope for the future. Mary was not the only one who found new inspiration in Compton; George set up a new studio designed with his large canvases in mind and desire for good light, a place where he was able to work on the many pieces that he had been meditating on throughout his career.



George & Mary pictured outside Limnerslease

Knowing that the local church needed to acquire more land for burials, they offered to pay for the building of a mortuary chapel. In 1895 Mary began giving the villagers of Compton the opportunity to make decorative terracotta tile that would adorn the exterior of Watts Chapel. This was completed in 1898. Mary then created decorative gesso interior assisted by a number of local women. Today her rich designs incorporating the motifs of many different religions and cultures remain unaltered.


Even today, Watts Chapel never ceases to amaze me each time I visit. Behind its attractive terracotta exterior lies a hidden gem, thanks to the dedicated hard work of Mary & the local people of Compton. It’s certainly worth a visit!

Watts Chapel is recognised as one of the most original and fascinating buildings in Britain, a fusion of art nouveau, Celtic, Romanesque and individual style.

Mary went on to establish the Compton Potters’ Arts Guild, a local pottery cooperative that gained contracts from Liberty & Co. and commissions from the most important architects of the era including Edwin Lutyens and Clough Williams-Ellis. The Guild would provide employment in the village of Compton until 1956.

During his last years, Watts also turned to sculpture, completing his most famous work, Physical Energy, in 1902. The original cast remains in the gallery today. Bronze casts are also replicated in Cape Town and in London’s Kensington Gardens.

Watts also instigated a memorial garden of everyday heroes in the form of a 50 foot-long open gallery situated near St Paul’s Cathedral in London called Postman’s Park.

It consists of a series of poignant tablets dedicated to individuals who lost their lives heroically attempting to save another.


Watts Gallery was opened on 1 April 1904, exactly three months before Watts’s death on 1 July 1904. Visit the Watts Gallery website for opening times.


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