Monday, 17 October 2011

Now we're cooking with gas!

I mentioned a while ago that we'd had a new kitchen installed, well here are the pictures!
We went with IKEA, since they're very cheap, and we were impressed with the quality - I have a friend who had an IKEA kitchen 5 years ago and it still looks brand new.
I used the online design feature to put the layout together. Fortunately once we'd paid for it instore a fitter came out to measure and corrected all of the mistakes I'd made. Oops! My measuring mistakes meant that I didn't get everything I wanted - double sink, built in microwave and full sized dishwasher being the biggest dissapointments!
When we bought our place it'd been a student rental for a long time and the cheap kitchen was really past it. The oven door had lost its handle, and its ability to light the gas. The fridge barely kept anything cold and the freezer frosted up within hours. The sink was leaking and the cupboard doors were warped. In short - ready for the knacker's yard!
Before - uninspiring to say the least
The kitchen was delivered on a Saturday and we were overwhelmed with new things. That was like Christmas, as the men brought appliances and IKEA packages in. Very exciting times!
We ripped the kitchen out ourselves to save some cash and actually it was very satisfying! We ran into trouble with the sink, as the people who fitted it didn't isolate the water supply, so we couldn't remove the taps without flooding the house. Fortunately the buildres managed to sort that out.

The builders arrived bright and early on the Monday - the electrician first to sort the appliance plugs out, then the cabinet makers and the plumber. The benefit of using the IKEA recommended service, apart from getting some of the installation on their interest free credit deal, was that they knew exactly what they were doing with the units. Within a few hours the first cabinets, and the extractor fan had gone up.
And by Wednesday afternoon, they were finished!
We went for Ramsjo units in white, with a solid oak worktop. The door fronts do show every bit of dirt, but they wipe off easily. The work surface has been very easy to keep clean and we've not marked it yet! The sink is Domsjo and I love it - it's big enough to fit the oven trays in completely, to soak and handwash clothes, plus it's been easy to keep clean - I noticed it was getting a bit tea stained today and after putting some soda crystals and boiling water on it, the stains came off with a wipe. My only complaint would be that with a high tap like ours and a shallow sink, the water does tend to splash everywhere if you're not careful. Fortunately, since we're barely washing anything up any more it's not much of an issue!
I think the biggest change has been the use of space - we've fitted a dishwasher in to the kitchen, and managed to hide the recycling bins away without sacrificing any cupboard space. Plus the built in washing machine keeps it lookig tidy.
I've been very impressed with the IKEA appliances - they're all A and above rated and seem to have been designed with very sensible and practical use in mind.
We've made good use of space, with a carosel cupboard in the corner - the shelves pull out completely so you can get right to the back and it works better than I'd thought it would!
The drawers with a cupboard front were a bit of a wild card - we only got them because there wasn't enough space for a regular drawer unit. Actually, though, they work really well. The height of the bottom drawer lets me stand up cleaning spray and kitchen roll, while the top 2 drawers fit cutlery and cooking bits and bobs simply.

The obligatory before and after shots:

The island making the L-shape is a trolley, coincidentally in the same colour scheme as the kitchen. We went for that rather than a built in island so that we can get a big table in and, when we pull it out to seat 10, move the island to keep access all around the table. Using baskets on the trolley shelves lets us store our veg and large bags of pasta.

The 'dining' part of the room got some wall cabinets and a sideboard for storage. Using the alcove left by the chimney breast gives us more space in the room/ We're planning to buy a new, bigger table which will be the same size as the current table at full extention, seating 6, but pull out to seat up to 10. As we've used the length of the room there should be plenty of space for that.

It feels as though we have more space now, and the room feels much nicer too. As the front door opens directly into this room, it's helped to improve the feel of the whole house!
There's a lot of work to do still - tiling the cooking space, painting the walls, making a new blind, fitting new lights and, eventually, stripping the carpet off and doing up the original oak floorboards in the whole of the room. All we have to do is find the time and the money!
I have to say that I've been very pleased with the IKEA purchasing process, the fitters (who came back to fix a minor issue with the work top placement 2 days after I called about it) and the quality of the cabinets and appliances.

For reference;
Sink: Domsjo
Fridge: Framtid fridge freezer
Oven: Datid OV8
Washing machine: Renlig
Dishwasher: Renlig
Hob: Datid
Work surface: Numerar Oak
Sideboard: Stornas Buffet
Doors: Ramsjo white
Handles: Svep

Cost £3350
Fitting £3490 (IKEA approved firm DTW)
All but £1000 of that went on 2 years interest free credit.
The appliances are all under 5 year warranty, the units 25 years and the installation 3 years, so we're pretty confident it'll last!

If you're looking for a good value kitchen, I'd say that IKEA are well worth a look. They're well designed and the service is very good (we had a named contact to deal with). You can almost certainly save money by putting cabinets together yourself if you have the know-how and looking for a local firm to fit them and the appliances, though you won't be able to spread the payments that way.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Sewists of the world - I need your help!

Rewatching True Blood season 2, I was struck (again) by how fabulous Lorena always looks.
This burnt orange number is fantastic
I do dislike the way that most of the vamps dress like 90s metallers - come on people - you have all of eternity to get your style together - be braver! Anyway, Lorena is, to me, how good vampires should look (Eric aside, cos, well, you know).
And that green dress she wears when Bill leaves her in the 30s? Just amazing. So much so that I'm keen to try to replicate it. Can I find a pattern though? And that's why I need your help!
To remind you, the dress is bias cut, has a cowl neck, underbust seam (though I'm not concerned about replicating that specifically) and straps which cross in the back.
I love the brooches on the straps, and the train in the back
The closest pattern I've found is Vogue 8358, though that's v-neck rather than cowl. If anyone can find me a closer pattern, I'd be eternally grateful! 
Vogue 8358

And just cos I can, I give you...Eric Northman.

Friday, 14 October 2011


My Grandmother is wonderful. While this is something I've always known, I have come to appreciate it even more recently, when I've been going through the Ton of clothes I grabbed from her house following a big clear out I helped my Mum with.
Handmade skirt
As she's now elderly and immobile, my Nan has surrendered most of her incredible (both in terms of content and size) wardrobe, and much of it has come to live with me.
I've washed a few items and aired the rest and am now the proud owner of;
12 skirts
1 skirt suit
1 jacket
2 dresses
6 slips
1 dressing gown
2 dresses and 1 skirt from which I'll reclaim fabric
1yd of cotton and
1 fur coat

Blue and green plaid skirt
My Mum is amazed that anyone would want to wear her Grandmother's clothes and as they're all 60s and 70s items, I'm surprised too. It turns out, though, that my Nan has always been a style queen.
Not only is her taste impeccable - the fabrics she's picked out are beautiful, she's also always bought very high quality clothes and she's taken really great care of everything. Most of it looks brand new. It's incredible. And, as I'm discovering, most of her clothes were hand made.
My Nan grew up in the 30s and 40s in the East End of London. When the war started, she was 14 and so left school to join the work place. She went to work in a factory sewing parachutes and as far as I know, has been sewing ever since.

Simple black velvet a-line skirt
At the end of the war she married the boy next door (actually he lived opposite, but near enough!) and when my Grandad was offered a chance to move to Hampshire with work, they took it. She kept working in London and would take the bus into Victoria every day, which meant that she needed a wardrobe fit for the London scene whilst saving her pennies (not to say that she didn't like to spend - there's an oft told story about a pair of shoes she spent 2 week's wages on in Bristol during the war, which she had to hide from my Grandad).
Suit made in 'West Germany'
As a result she sewed many of her own clothes then, and continued to make pieces for cruises she went on in her retirement. She has a raft of photos of her creations dining on the QE2!
It was my Nan who first taught me to sew and I can remember many happy school holidays making stuffed toys, dressing up clothes or aprons. When my school ball came around at 16, I helped her make a dress with a boned bodice and massive Tulle skirt from burgundy satin - I still think it's a remarkable feat! I wore that dress proudly and told anyone who'd listen that I'd made it with my Nan.

Handmade dress - crazy!
Some of the skirts need taking in, since as she got older she let out a lot of darts and added an inch here and there to the waist bands so that, weirdly, they're too big for me. I'm sure as the rest of the clothes get modified I'll be posting pictures of me in them, so watch this space!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Primark for the win

As I mentioned in a previous post I happened to accidently do some shopping in Primark recently. I'm doing my best not to spend any money right now but I saw a variety of lovely clothes that I couldn't pass up. There's a distinct retro vibe on the high street at the moment, and I'm keen to capitalise on it! 
This skirt is a light rayon type fabric and comes in bang on knee length. It's light enough for parties and summer only sadly but I'm happy to wait to wear this. It''s got a great swish factor to it!
Pretty floaty blouse with tiny flowers all over, and gathered to the sleeves and waist. This is really soft and comfy and works well with high waisted trousers and smart skirts.
Cotton peasant top. Again, one for the summer but this was reduced to £5 so it'll sit in the cupboard happily till then. There's smocking around the neck and the waist and little gathered sleeves.
30s style pyjama/lounging set with high waist wide legged trousers and a kimono top. This will also have to be a summer outfit but it's pretty special and I couldn't turn it down!
And the piece de resistance - a tweed suit with a full circle skirt, mock waistcoat in the jacket and prettily puffed sleeves. I've had lots of comments about this suit - I think it's going to be a stock item for winter!
I think I'll be popping back in a few weeks to see their new winter stock as it comes in - I think we're in for a very vintage few months on the high street!

Saturday, 1 October 2011


I got to join a friend at an Oktoberfest party last night, and had a wonderful time!
I thought I would enter into the spirit of things by dressing up, and managed to cobble this together in a week. The blouse is from Primark, it's a gypsy style top with smocking round the neckline and was reduced to £5! The corset top thing dates back to the 90s, when suck a thing was still fashionable - I'm very pleased I'm such a hoarder!
I made the skirt and the apron this week - trhe apron was a very simple make - just 1m of gingham cotton gathered onto 2m ribbon and hemmed all the way round.
The skirt, however, was something of a challenge. I bought too little fabric the first time I went to the shop and ended up getting the rest on Thursday evening.
I was intending to make a gathered skirt like Gertie's and bought some raw silk with a taffeta like textureso that it would stand out nicely. Sadly, as I ran out of time, the gathers turned into box pleats, the invisible zip turned into a barely held together set of plastic and cotton threads. I won't tell you what the insides look like...Still, it held up to an evening's drinking, and a rendition of the Macerena.
We had entertainment in the form of an accordian playing, joke telling Bavarian. We had lots of sing alongs, songs with silly actions and clash clashing with our neigbours. There was beer.
And more beer.
And sausages!