Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Interview with Sarah Matthews from Octavi

Sarah Matthews of Octavi's designs are comfortable and relaxing - antique or vintage Japanese fabrics in soft tones of blue, grey and olive that seem both peaceful and happy.  I interviewed Sarah this month to find out more about her business, and her unique designs that just make you want to lie back on a pile of her pillows and think of koi fish swimming in a pond...

Cory: How did you begin making things out of Japanese fabrics?

I made good friends with a Japanese colleague and his wife - they worked with us from 2007 to 2009 and I learned a lot from them about traditional Japanese crafts and particularly sashiko stitching.

Cory: How did you come to start your business?

Sarah: I started my business in 2009 because of the recession and a means of making extra money to support my son who is now 17. I had always sewn in my leisure time so my choice of business to start was an obvious one.

Cory: How do you find your materials?

Sarah: I have slowly built up a selection of reliable suppliers over the years by researching and testing out materials. All of my materials are ethically made and mostly antique/vintage so reused rather than causing more demand for textiles to be created.

Cory: Where do you make your projects? What is your workspace like?

Sarah: I have a spare room at home set aside for my studio space. I have a long bench which I cut and sew at and plenty of shelving for books, magazine and fabrics. The room has good natural light so I make the most of that when sewing.

Cory: Where do you find your inspirations?

Sarah: I travel often and pick out beautiful design even in the mundane. I love to look at colour combinations that people create when dressing or which have happened accidentally in nature. In Japan I take inspiration from architecture - the colours and shapes used and the attention to detail.

I browse magazines and books daily on my bus ride into work (my day job) and keep notes and draw images in my book which I keep with me at all times.

Cory: If your crafts were a piece of music, what would it be?

Sarah: It would be a tune rather than a song, probably a traditional Japanese piece played on the shamisen - I find this so relaxing and hope that my work reflects this.

Octavi has not only textiles and sewn items, but vintage pieces as well, from ceramics to beads to things for the kitchen. If you are looking to decorate your home and want to create a warm, simple comfortable feel, you're bound to find something from Sarah!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Peach Cookies Recipe Translation

Aren't these the cutest cookies ever?  I stumbled upon this blog from a picture on Pinterest and am in love!  How delicious :)  The only thing - it's in French!  Since I'm trying to get my French up to snuff before I go there this summer, it's good practise for me to translate, but I wanted to share the translation too so we can all have the chance to try this gorgeous recipe - it doesn't seem as hard as it looks!

For the cookie dough you will need:

140g of softened butter
90g of sugar
320g of flour
1 teaspoon of yeast
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (or 1 sachet of vanilla sugar if you are in France!)
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of peach flavouring
a few drops of peach colouring
1 egg

For the decoration you will need:

peach jam
150g caster sugar
100g green almond paste
50g dark chocolate


Mix together the sugar and butter.  Add the flavouring, colour and 1 beaten egg and mix it so it is creamy.  Slowly mix in the flour, and add the salt and yeast.  You'll get a dough that's soft and malleable.

Form 20g balls and lightly flatten them on a baking sheet in the shape of a half peach.  With a mystery implement (I couldn't translate what the above item is!) or something similar, lightly indent one of the sides.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the cookies start to colour.  The recipe doesn't say what temperature to bake them on - but use your own common sense and knowledge of your oven!  I'd try 160 C on my own (I'll report back when I have tried these myself!).

When they are cooked, leave them until they are completely cool.  Paste the peach halves together with jam.  Coat the peaches in jam, but make sure to not put too much (or you risk making the cookies soggy), and roll them in caster sugar.  Decorate with the almond paste in the shape of leaves, and place a chip of dark chocolate for the stem.

Et voila!

This is a translation from Delices d'Orient - I highly recommend a visit even if you don't speak French, the pictures are beautiful and the recipes delicious!

Friday, 7 June 2013

Old skool quiz... what colour are you?

you are aquamarine

Your dominant hues are cyan and green. Although you definately strive to be logical you care about people and know there's a time and place for thinking emotionally. Your head rules most things but your heart rules others, and getting them to meet in the middle takes a lot of your energy some days.

Your saturation level is medium - You're not the most decisive go-getter, but you can get a job done when it's required of you. You probably don't think the world can change for you and don't want to spend too much effort trying to force it.

Your outlook on life is very bright. You are sunny and optimistic about life and others find it very encouraging, but remember to tone it down if you sense irritation.
the spacefem.com html color quiz
I love these old quizzes... the link is at the bottom to take it yourself, what colour are you?

This is the colour of my handbag as well!  Aquamarine sounds good to me :)

Sunday, 2 June 2013

A lovely walk in the country - Oxford to Abingdon

My husband and I set off yesterday for a lovely walk in the countryside - a rather long one at that!

From Oxford, we headed south on Iffley Road on to Donnington Bridge.  From there we descended onto the Thames path, which took us all the way to the gorgeous town of Abingdon, 9.5 miles away!

It took us three hours, but we were laden with cashews and water and chocolate, and kept a good pace.

Once in Abingdon, which is a gorgeous town, we had a delicious lunch in a fantastic pub called The Brewery Tap, which had a great atmosphere, and delicious fish and chips!  An eton mess to share for dessert made sure we were sufficiently stuffed while walking around town and doing a bit of browsing.

Abingdon is one of the longest continually occupied towns in the UK, being occupied since the 600s!  It's a typical Anglo Saxon development with a big open town square.  It's name comes from it's Abbey, which is now mostly ruins. but beautiful ruins :)

The Ridgeway passes through the henge
at Avebury, which dwarfs Stonehenge!
Abingdon is full of charity shops, and I bagged myself a book by Christopher Hitchens and a little gingham top.  The husband bought himself a silver serving spoon with fruit impressions on it, because he said it was hideous and wonderful in equal measure.  We also found a great walking stick with leather strap and metal tip that had never been used, and was a great price at £5!  It served him well on our walk back!  Yes... we walked back!

Before we headed back we stopped at a nice tea shop for a cuppa, and I was pleased to be drinking tea that had been grown in Britain!  Rainy cold Britain, in the south in Cornwall at least, has enough sun and dry weather to actually have a tea plantation.  The company is called Tregothnan (sounds very Cornish!).

Today our legs are surprisingly painless for walking all 19 miles, which is making us confident enough to think about walking the Ridgeway, which is the ancient prehistoric highway that once connected Dorset to the Norfolk Coast.

While I'm not much of sports fiend, I do love walking in the countryside, learning about the land and the plants and animals, and appreciating the outdoors.  The UK has some beautiful trails and while it's not the rugged hiking that would take place back where I'm from, it has its own charm.  I imagine I'll be walking in the UK as long as my legs will carry me, and its probably impossible to exhaust all the choices of places to go for beautiful scenery.