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April 2016

Repurposing our downstairs bathroom

Repurposing our downstairs bathroom

by Clare Mansell

The rooms in our home have served many purposes since it was built a hundred years ago. Until 2014 it was a single storey bungalow and the main bathroom was in a space off the kitchen, but once we added a first floor and two extra bathrooms, this downstairs washing facility was not really needed and the bath was taking up a lot of floor space which could be better used.


The problem was that ripping it out wasn’t a small job. The tiling on the wall and floor didn’t run under or behind the bath, so ripping it out would leave a big messy space and the other thing was that the bath was occasionally useful, when we washed the dogs.

So between us we came up with a plan. Jim bought a length of ply which he mounted on wooden strips so it would fit on top of bath (the bath top wasn’t completely flat as the rim of it is raised). He cut out a space for the taps and a small hole as a handle so it could be lifted on and off. Then he mounted three bits of wood block along the edge to stop anything placed on top sliding off. The edging which faces the room is actually made from a couple of panels of laminate flooring we had left over from the cabin.


Then it was my turn to do the second part of the transformation. We had an old cot mattress in the loft which happened to fit the ply bath top perfectly. I made a zipped cover for it using old curtain fabric and we slotted it in to place.


The first response most people give when they see this set up is they think it’s a massage or therapy table. It’s not.

This rather luxurious (but quite cheap to build) set-up is actually an over bath dog bed…


The bath still gets used once a month or so…


And when it’s not being used for dog washing the space under the cover is now rather useful storage for our the cushions for our garden furniture.

Most importantly though when we go out, we are able to shut the dogs in a small space off the kitchen, rather than letting them have free run of the whole space. When you have a large Canadian dog and a food stealing Beagle (who often work as a team) this kind of enclosed space is extremely handy. It’s also noticeable that the dogs seem to be quite happy to go in the room now that they have a rather large and comfortable bed!

This room repurpose was made possible by Ocean Finance who provided us with a financial gift to spend on a treat for our dogs.

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How to print children’s drawings on to fabric

Earlier this year I shared a quilt I had made using children’s artwork printed directly on to cotton (no transfer) I’ve had a few questions about the construction of the quilt and how the printing process works, so I thought I’d tell you a bit more about the project in this post.

childrens art printed on to cotton poplin

The original idea for this quilt is not mine, but actually goes back to this blog post I read whilst living in Canada nearly six years ago. The first stage of creating the quilt involved getting the  class teacher to oversee the creation of nineteen pieces of artwork. I wanted the finished blocks to be 5 inches square so after factoring in the seam allowance I would need, I asked her to get the drawings on squares that were 5.5 x 5.5 inches – This was an error!

I hadn’t thought that the kids would colour to the edge and draw beautiful borders, I should have added the seam allowances afterwards. Fortunately this was not a problem, after I scanned the pictures in to my computer I used Photoshop to resize them to 5 inches which was a quick and easy process. (If you don’t have Photoshop other free photo editing software will do the same job)


The next task involved placing the resized drawings on to an A4 template in Photoshop (though you could also use Microsoft Word). I stacked them vertically with two to a page. Then I did a test print on a piece of normal paper to ensure I had enough of a gap between each one for my quarter inch seam allowance. To do this I got a ruler out and measured round the edge of the artwork on my sample print to check there was enough space.

Once I’d adjusted the margins I was ready to print straight on to the Blumenthal Craft’s printable cotton poplin. Unlike printable transfers, using this process you print directly on to cotton which has a waxed backing sheet which keeps it rigid. The result is proper printed cotton and it doesn’t crack or flake after washing like a transfer.


I used a roll and a pack of sheets as the roll is more economical but not quite long enough for this job. With the roll I cut nine 11 inch long ‘pages’ from the 100 inch roll and printed two drawings on each. This made the sheets the equivalent size of US/Canadian A4 paper which is slightly smaller than European A4.

After printing you need to let the ink completely dry on the sheets for about half an hour. Then you remove the backing and wash the sheets under running cold water. I found there was very little run off of colour so the washing process was quite quick.

Cotton poplin creases easily so you have to resist the temptation to wring the sheets out too much. I draped mine over a radiator and put an old towel underneath it to catch any coloured drips. When the sheets were dry it was time to start the quilt.


I trimmed all the blocks down exactly as you would with a normal sheet of cotton and then sewed on 2.5 inch borders made with Kona solids. The sashing between the blocks was made from 3.5 inch strips of Kona Snow and the off cuts of the Kona solids formed the border around the edge of the quilt.


I’m delighted with the result and will definitely be using the Cotton Poplin again. The official washing instructions tell you to hand wash or dry clean, but I have checked with the blogger who made the original quilt seven years ago and she says she has machine washed and tumble dried her quilt and that the blocks have only faded “a bit” so I don’t think the occasional cool machine wash and line dry will be fatal.


Any questions about the printing process or the quilt construction please leave them in the comments…

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Upcycling glass jars for storage

Upcycling glass jars for storage

by Clare Mansell

I have a confession, it is possible that at some point in the past I have put an empty glass jar in the recycling bin in the same week that I have then bought a Kilner jar, which is pretty illogical apart from the fact that Kilner jars do look so pretty…

So this month for my Pinty Plus Chalk Paint Spray makeover I thought I would upcycle some old glass jars into storage containers for my She Shed. I never seem to have enough small containers for all the bits and pieces that go with sewing and as a result they often tend to get lumped into a big box together. A bit of organisation will help me keep tabs on which supplies are running low…


I put out an SOS on Facebook and discovered that at least two of my greener pals keep all their old glass jars to reuse and I was able to pick and choose from their stock.

Here is the collection of jars I salvaged. A real mixed bunch…


After I had given them all a really good clean to remove any sticky labels, I decided to spray paint the lids using Pinty Plus Chalk Paint Spray in Turquoise. If you saw my post last month, this is not the same colour I used for the chair. It’s slightly darker, but when you look at them separately it would be easy to assume they were the same.


If you look very closely at the image above you might notice the left hand lid has a bubble on it. This was entirely my fault I had scrubbed the lid with a brillo pad and a bit of the soap residue had been left on it which made the paint bubble up. Moral to the story? Make sure your lids are clean! After the lids had dried I sprayed again with craft varnish to protect them…


And added some chalkboard labels which come in all different shapes and sizes and you can buy from Amazon. You also need some chalk to write on them with, but if you have a small child, there’s always some of that somewhere in the house…


Simple uniform storage jars! I used a fraction of a can of the turquoise paint and a third of a packet of labels. If I keep this up I may have to invest in a chalkboard pen with a fine nib as my actual chalk handwriting is a little messy for my liking!

And if you are wondering when exactly the She Shed makeover will be complete, we had a small setback this weekend because I ordered the wrong legs for the units (oops!) but it should be finished next weekend…


Linking up with…

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So you want to own a Beagle?

So you want to own a Beagle?

by Clare Mansell

Today I am teaming up with Royal Canin who make food that is nutritionally tailored to different dog breeds to give you an insight into Beagle ownership…

Out on dog walks I often encounter people who make a beeline for our dog and say they have “always wanted to have a Beagle” and there is something very appealing about these real life Snoopys, but what are they like to own?


Bella our own Beagle is a Cypriot rescue dog who we’ve had for six years. I knew very little about the breed when we first rehomed her and have learned an awful lot since, which is definitely not the best way to approach it.

Being hounds, Beagles are pack dogs and like company. Many Beagle owners I know have more than one dog (though not necessarily two Beagles) and Bella is not exceptional in her inability to cope with being left alone. In fact we can’t leave her n the garden when we go out as she will perform impressive acrobatics to escape and then run joyously down our lane to be reunited with us as though we could never have intended to leave without her!  More than once I’ve had to turn up somewhere with her in a makeshift lead.

Beagles are famously highly food motivated. If you do a quick search of youtube you’ll come across a selection of impressive stunts performed by these hungry hounds who will go to incredible lengths for a snack. There’s one video in particular where a Beagle manages to navigate round a kitchen to reach an oven which he then opens in order to access the cooking contents. There are also quite a lot of Beagles that open fridges on their own.

Bella’s own food stealing efforts aren’t as extreme, although she does go through bins and people’s handbags and will eat absolutely anything left in her reach including stuff that once had contact with food like sweet wrappers! Her off-piste diet has lead to a few health problems in the past. I have written before about our struggle with diagnosing (and now treating) her Lymphomatic Enteritis/Colitis, a condition which was undoubtedly caused or triggered by the rubbish she has consumed. She is currently on low dose antibiotics and a couple of homeopathic treatments but otherwise eats a normal diet.


So Beagles are escape artists and food stealers – What are the good sides of their character? Well it turns out that Beagles unfortunate association with testing labs came about as a result of one of their better personality traits. They are quite simply very docile and calm animals. In testing labs they were used because they wouldn’t bite the staff and we have found our dog to be the perfect pet to have around children. When Theo was younger Bella would often be hugged tightly or have her eyes poked and I would intervene and take her away, only to find she was crawling back for more attention. My niece Millie has also always been a big fan of Bella as you can see above!

Caution must be applied when you have a Beagle out on a walk. People are often surprised to see Bella off the lead at all and we do have to pick and choose our moments, once her nose is down and she has a scent she loses her hearing totally and will not be lured back for anything, even when she is just a few feet away. One of her favourite tricks is to disappear into a field of crops and emerge two hours later looking a little sheepish. Fortunately for us it’s often one of the fields near our house and so after many wasted hours trying to call her back, I have started to be a little more relaxed and I leave her to come home on her own.

In conclusion Beagle ownership is nothing if not eventful, but I don’t think we’d be without her. She is certainly one of those dogs that will be fondly remembered when the children are older. Her distinctive character has infiltrated almost every area of our family life.


Thank you to Royal Canin for Bella’s great hamper and if you are considering dog ownership and would like to find out more about the personalities of different breeds head over to the Royal Canin website where you can find the “Royal Family” guide. 

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Our garden in April – The mixed blessings of storm Katie

As another season of growing begins I am hoping to look back on this summer as being the year we finally took control of our garden and made it ours. What a journey it has been since we first set eyes on this house 8 years ago. We’ve felled four trees, refenced almost the entire perimeter of the plot, ripped out 15 metres of hedging, laid 100 metres of turf, built a raised bed and planted or replaced countless shrubs.


This year we’ve started work in the garden earlier than any other year when Jim planted 20 metres of privet hedging along our southern boundary replacing the messy unattractive hedging we pulled out three years ago.

The original work was a pig of a job which involved removing endless tree stumps, a concrete pillar, heaps of bramble, bricks and rubble. You may wonder why we took a hedge out only to replace it with another, but the whole area needed clearing and it gave us a chance to put in a healthier and more attractive hedge.


I speculated when we removed it that living without a hedge on the coast may prove to be rather breezy and I was right! My dad pointed out that if you draw a line south-westerly from our garden is there is actually very little between us and South America, so that may explain it!

We looked at several options and of suppliers and variety, needing a hedge that was evergreen, quite dense, suited a coastal location and an exposed spot and eventually we settled on Privet. The place where we had bought hedging from before online wanted £180 for 75 bare root plants, but Jim found 100 plants from a seller on eBay for £68. We were very wary, but figured even if half of them died we would still be quids in, so we bought them and they are healthy and green!


It’s strange, but having even those spindly little plants seems to make a diference. The garden feels more enclosed in a positive way. Apparently privet is one of the fastest growing hedges, which will mean we have to stay on top of it, but also means it should be a proper hedge in two years (so they say)

Elsewhere in the garden we lost our biggest shrub to Storm Katie a few weeks ago. I was very sad, but quickly realised it gave us a great opportunity to start afresh in the flower bed it had dominated and having floundered around not knowing what I like in a garden, a friend of mine introduced me to this brilliant book which I now use as my bible..


The empty bed where the shrub we lost was is looking a bit sad at the moment. We are attempting to get some New Zealand flaxes growing in it. They were transplanted from Jim’s aunt’s garden at Easter, but aren’t looking terribly happy at the moment. If they don’t take, we shall just have to buy some ready potted, but it’s worth a go…


Elsewhere in the garden our Camelia and Spanish broom are in full flower and looking spectacular. A neighbour of ours also gifted us some pots recently so I’ve been planting out hosta (a favourite of mine) Hebe, Bay, Allium and Cordyline.


We still have one long empty bed by the back of our house. I’m planning on planting grasses there, but for the moment it’s just making a really good spot for digging…


Are you working on any garden projects this year?

Linking up with Annie

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